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By Jim in San Marcos (Reporter)
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Who Is Financing Real Estate Loans?

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The question arises, what bank is nuts enough to write home loans at even 4% for 30 years. The answer absolutely none. The savings and loan fiasco of the 1990’s was caused by Savings institutions loaning long and paying short term depositors interest. They loaned money for 30 years at 5%. When short term rates went to 6% their depositors move their funds to a bank paying higher rates and we had massive failures of Savings and Loans.

The banks could do 4% loans, but why bother with the potential risk, when you can make 12% to 36% on credit card loans.

The invisible banker in this whole mess is the Federal Reserve. They are financing the current real estate bubble. It’s kind of a peculiar arrangement. The Federal Reserve can keep a loan on the books for 30 years at zero percent interest and when it gets paid off, they get their money. Now if an investor has a 100k 30-year Treasury at 1% interest and rates go to 8% the current value of that bond is reduced to about $12,500. If they need cash, they will be eaten alive. If they can wait like the government can, they get every penny back in 30 years. Receiving interests on a loan is a human gratification, not a governmental expectation.

Most home loans end up being for about 5 years, the buyer sells (moves gets divorced, etc). So a loan written for 30 years, ends up being a 5 year loan after the home is sold and repurchased by a new owner. The Federal Reserve has amassed about 3 to 6 trillion dollars’ worth of real estate debt. The interest rate is really irrelevant to the Federal Reserve, they are not a bank, and do not have to show a profit. Time is an option that they don’t have to bother with. But the financing pool of money has to be very large. So when a bank writes a loan, they farm it out to a buyer like the Federal Reserve. The Fed has to buy all loans offered in order to keep interest rates low, just like what they are doing with T-Bills. If they don’t, prices rise until a buyer appears and purchases the note.

If you are following retirement funds and other investment operations, many are becoming involved in rental real estate. Notice the zero overhead of purchasing renting real estate for the Investment funds. They have the purchase money and need an investment return, plus they get to depreciate the investment. The base line return can be as high as 15% and most appear to be around 8%. In bad economic times projecting an 8% return just might not float the boat. But right now, the investment funds have a 4 percent hedge on potential home buyers; whose cost of funds is at 4 percent and no depreciation.

If we reduce it down to a personal level, for every dollar the Fed loans out, it will get one dollar back (if it waits long enough). Where you and I depend on the interest generated on loaning out dollars to create investment income for our retirement.

The real problem starts when the Federal Reserve stops buying real estate loans. The question now being asked, “Do they dare?” The questions of a lot of bystanders, is, “How can these crap shacks be worth so much?” Zero interest rates have distorted real estate values.

Just maybe, the Feds will be forced to take possession of the bad crap shack loans— If this real estate bubble pops, they own it all, the only problem is the “they” bit; its you and me, AKA Taxpayer.

Reality might have “left the building” 20 years ago, but it will return. Stocks, bonds and real estate will return to historic norms. Once government influence drops from the equation, the mis-allocation of resources will stop. Just how this will happen is up for debate, but the drop in the world stock markets and the fall of oil prices seem to point to an uncertainty that could speed up the process a bit.


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