It looks like the Federal Housing Finance Agency - or FHFA - is getting ready to introduce new regulations later this year that would prevent Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks - FHLBanks - from investing in mortgage loans tagged with these now notorious private transfer fees. This would then effectively bring major government-controlled home loan players in agreement about them, because FHA already is, according to HUD's regulations, banned from insuring mortgages on homes with private transfer fees. They are considered "legal restrictions on conveyance" in FHA talk.
These private transfer fees are brought to life by covenants attached to a deed that result in a payment to a third party every time a home is sold. The fee generally is 1% of the sales price and paid by the buyer, who may or may not know about it until he's sitting all excited at the closing table. Finding out about it typically elevates his blood pressure even further. Home builders are the ones who usually - but not always - would do this type of thing, giving them an additional, effortless revenue source for 99 years, the standard duration of the arrangement.
FHFA finds several problems with them. They hike home ownership costs up front, make property transfers more complicated and sometimes legally uncertain because regular title searches may not reveal their existence, particularly after multiple ownership changes. They can cause trouble elsewhere, too. Secondary mortgage market investors, lenders and title firms are vulnerable to possible hidden liens and title flaws.
The increased cost factor to home buyers and legal issues for mortgage industry participants are by themselves enough to cause concern. The other big issue is that the home builder who sets up the private fee structure does not provide any service or product to enable him to honestly earn the continuous stream of income. When it's finished with a subdivision, it's gone but would still collect for a long time money for free. Frankly, this seems to take us back to the creative instruments Wall Street not so long ago came up with that ultimately led to the current mortgage and real estate meltdown.
FHFA is on the right track to decisively curtail this from spreading any further. At the moment government entities control over 90% of the mortgage market, so its upcoming regulation will effectively put a stop to private transfer fees, for the good of consumers and the home loan and housing industries.