BluefoxToday blog : Esko Kiuru

Private mortgage insurance firms changing direction

House and dollar signPMI, or private mortgage insurance, played a large role in yesterday's real estate boom, allowing buyers acquire property without putting a penny down. That was a tempting prospect indeed. 100% financing actually became quite popular those days as values kept galloping up on a steady pace that quickly generated equity no borrower in his right mind would dare turn down. The standard rule required a PMI if the down payment was less than 20%. These insurers were making money hand over fist, like just about all the other housing market participants did.

The real estate market's collapse changed everything in a jiffy for PMIs. They began losing truckloads of money as insurance claim requests rolled in from besieged mortgage lenders. That's one thing. They also considerably tightened their guidelines and when that wasn't enough to turn the tide they partially or totally withdrew from many real estate markets where the destruction was the worst. The ones in the latter category were called declining markets, the more prominent of them being Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada, the fab four of housing euphoria. Things looked really bleak for the PMIs.

Now they are cautiously climbing out of somewhat of a hibernation. One of them, Radiant Guaranty, actually dropped the declining market label a while ago and now is insuring mortgages up to 95% LTV, or loan-to-value, as long as the originator is of stellar reputation with minimal delinquency ratios. Genworth has recently adjusted its underwriting rules to pretty much match those of Radiant. Not to fall too far behind the competition, MGIC - the top dog in the business - has removed some states from its restricted list and making other tweaks, like lowering the FICO score minimum to 660 for 95% home loans.

PMIs are softening their guidelines as the housing market appears to be settling down. The risk element of doing business is slowly fading. That's in stark contrast to what FHA is nowadays doing. Its mortgage underwriting guidelines are getting tougher on the heels of severe losses that some felt would soon require a taxpayer bailout. FHA used to be nearly the only game in town, but with the PMIs gradually rewriting their rules the playing field is leveling out. Cost wise, in many cases the two of them today are comparable. As the housing market continues slogging along the long and slow recovery road it's foreseeable that PMI will in time become a more attractive alternative.

Las Vegas mortgage borrowers will benefit

After the loud bubble bursting event Sin City quickly assumed the unofficial role of a flag bearer for the declining market troops when its own real estate sector did the unthinkable, and soon thereafter it turned largely into an FHA stronghold. It was tough to locate conventional mortgage money for anyone putting down less than 20%. Southern Nevada is nowadays experiencing some kind of a revival and PMI firms are reflecting that in their recent decisions. As a result Las Vegas home loan applicants will find more forgiving underwriting criteria to look at that will give the real estate market here a better chance to shake the lingering malaise off.  





Provided by: 

Esko Kiuru
Mortgage, real estate and apartment industry analyst - syndicated mortgage, housing and property management blog
My cell: 702-499-1006

Comment balloon 6 commentsEsko Kiuru • April 28 2010 05:22PM
Private mortgage insurance firms changing direction
PMI, or private mortgage insurance, played a large role in yesterday's real estate boom, allowing buyers acquire property without putting a penny down. That was a tempting prospect indeed. 100% financing actually became quite popular those days as… more
High housing inventory could further delay expected market turnaround
The residential real estate market is on a turbo-charged roller coaster ride. One day the news is encouraging in the form of increased existing home sales over previous months. Or that housing prices are beginning to stabilize across the country… more
Private mortgage market showing signs of thawing
When the real estate market succumbed a few years ago into a deep recession it took the home loan sector with it. While many mortgage lenders failed spectacularly, others were kept from falling off the map by costly government bailouts or found a… more
CityCenter puts off Veer Towers completion - Las Vegas high-rise…
MGM Mirage is now planning to open the two-tower luxury complex - sitting in the middle of CityCenter and drawing admiring and sometimes quizzical looks with its two leaning towers - in May. It was scheduled to do so in mid-December when most of… more
Las Vegas real estate may not be as affordable today as it seems
The housing market bust in Southern Nevada - home to communities like Summerlin, Silverstone Ranch, Henderson, Mountains Edge, North Las Vegas and Rhodes Ranch - has taken down with it homeowners, mortgage lenders, real estate agents and builders,… more
Fannie Mae adjusts eligibility rules following pre-foreclosure action
The sometimes shell-shocked players in the mortgage industry are continuously scrambling to meet the exceptional challenges they face almost daily. Seemingly, not a week goes by without one of the major home loan organizations - government or… more
White House solicits ideas for mortgage finance reform - Let's give…
The home loan market has evolved over the decades into a colossal and thoroughly complicated system that is so hard to get one's arms around with any authority. One of the latest additions to it were the otherworldly subprime mortgages and their… more
Freddie Mac to auction REO homes in Vegas in late April - Be there
Mortgage money remains affordable, prices are way low in Southern Nevada - with subdivisions like Rhodes Ranch, Southern Highlands, Silverstone Ranch, Charleston Heights, Silverado Ranch and Mountains Edge - and Washington is sweetening the pot… more
FHA takes risk management seriously
As FHA's market share has soared over the past few years, thanks to the vacuum left by conventional mortgage lenders whose fortunes have suffered terrible setbacks in the ongoing real estate calamity. But it hasn't escaped the anger of the sinking… more
Las Vegas existing home sales take a solid leap in March
Southern Nevada resales slowed down considerably over the winter months and understandably put a little scare on local real estate folks. In the fall things had moved right along, raising hopes that some kind of a housing rebound was underway,… more