The rest of the year and early next year will be particular bad for housing because the first time buyer tax credit expires, just when a lot of these REO will hit the market. Also, FHA loans are in a bit of trouble (like I said a few months ago), so if FHA raises their down payment requirements, like they ought to, then even the low end of the market, which was being supported by these two government programs, could see a bit of a drop, say 10% at least.
Check out this article:
Wall Street Journal
SEPTEMBER 4, 2009 Loan Losses Spark Concern Over FHA
By NICK TIMIRAOS and DEBORAH SOLOMON
The Federal Housing Administration, hit by increasing mortgage-related losses, is in danger of seeing its reserves fall below the level demanded by Congress, according to government officials, in a development that could raise concerns about whether the agency needs a taxpayer bailout.
The rising losses at the FHA, part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, come as the agency has rapidly increased its role in guaranteeing loans in an attempt to stabilize the housing market.
It isn't clear how the rising losses may affect home buyers. Options for the agency could include politically unpalatable choices, such as asking for taxpayer funds to boost reserves or increasing the premiums borrowers pay for the insurance offered by the agency. Agency officials say if there is a shortfall, they don't have to do anything except report it to lawmakers. But some mortgage and housing analysts see trouble ahead. "They're probably going to need a bailout at some point because they're making loans in a riskier environment," says Edward Pinto, a mortgage-industry consultant and former chief credit officer at Fannie Mae. "...I've never seen an entity successfully outrun a situation like this."
The FHA insures private lenders against defaults on certain home mortgages, an inducement to make such loans. Insurance from the New Deal-era agency has enabled lending to buyers who can't make a big down payment or who want to refinance but have little equity. Most private lenders have sharply curtailed credit to those borrowers.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said in June the FHA would be 'more than likely to stay out of a broader need for any taxpayer funding.'
In the past two years, the number of loans insured by the FHA has soared and its market share reached 23% in the second quarter, up from 2.7% in 2006, according to Inside Mortgage Finance. FHA-backed loans outstanding totaled $429 billion in fiscal 2008, a number projected to hit $627 billion this year.
Rising defaults have eaten through the FHA's cushion. Some 7.8% of FHA loans at the end of the second quarter were 90 days late or more, or in foreclosure, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, a figure roughly equal to the national average for all loans. That is up from 5.4% a year ago.
Resulting FHA losses are offset by premiums paid by borrowers. Federal law says the FHA must maintain, after expected losses, reserves equal to at least 2% of the loans insured by the agency. The ratio last year was around 3%, down from 6.4% in 2007.
If its reserves fall short, the agency is obliged to notify Congress, which could spark a commotion over the extent to which the government is funding losses in the housing market. Some housing analysts have said losses might lead the FHA to pull back lending, which has helped boost flagging housing demand.
A senior official at HUD, which oversees the FHA, said there is "no risk" that the FHA would require money from Congress if the ratio falls below 2%. Asked about the agency's capital ratio, the official said a report detailing that number won't be completed until the FHA's fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said in June, "there's a better than even chance that we will stay above the two percent reserve threshold. That suggests, not just for the 2010 business, but overall for the portfolio, that we'll more than likely to stay out of a broader need for any taxpayer funding."
Some economists say the FHA's lending has been crucial to preventing a deeper bust in property. Thomas Lawler, an independent housing economist, said "the alternative could have been a complete meltdown of housing finance" that would have ultimately led to much larger losses. Critics have said the FHA, which has never had a chief risk officer, isn't able to manage such a large portfolio in an unstable market.
Policymakers have used the FHA to stabilize the housing market by pushing it to offer credit with far easier terms than that offered by most private lenders. For example, it will back loans with down payments as low as 3.5%.