Okay so this is old news to any of you that have been following the mortgage mess as it unfolds, but it’s worth bringing up again to point out the fact that Elizabeth Rhodes at the Seattle Times has finally admitted what a mess we’re in:
The evening before their home purchase was to close, Gary Becker and his wife, Amy Dacus, learned their mortgage to buy a Woodinville home had evaporated.
Unlike subprime borrowers defaulting on loans, the couple had a stellar credit score, a 20 percent down payment, strong employment history and had effortlessly purchased three prior homes.
But their new home’s $670,000 sales price was large enough to require a “jumbo” loan, so named because it was for more than $417,000, the limit the nation’s largest mortgage backers will fund.
Their California mortgage broker had unexpectedly lost its ability to provide jumbos — an event being repeated by lenders nationwide as the underlying funding for these large loans grows scarcer.
Now wait just a minute here. Didn’t anyone tell the nation’s largest mortgage backers that Seattle is Special™? It’s just not fair that “jumbo” here means the same thing as it does in Ord, Nebraska. “Jumbo” in Seattle should be, like, $4.17 million, or something. Just because we’re buying ridiculously expensive houses up here doesn’t mean that we’re a higher credit risk. Come on!
Seriously though, here’s the most interesting part of the article, where Ms. Rhodes provides some actual statistics… (emphasis mine)
Nearly half of the single-family houses for sale in King County, plus 21 percent of the condos, have sales prices high enough to require jumbo loans — and that’s if buyers reduce their loan amount by putting 20 percent down.
Despite the dire tone of the article, jumbo loans are not disappearing entirely. However, they are certainly becoming much more difficult to obtain. Is there anyone out there that thinks making mortgages for nearly half the houses in the county exceedingly harder to obtain isn’t going to result in a strong downward pressure on prices? Anyone rational, I mean.
(Elizabeth Rhodes, Seattle Times, 08.26.2007)