I once worked in an office where there was a sign that read: "AFTER COFFEE BREAK STAFF SHOULD EMPTY THE COFFEE POT AND STAND UPSIDE DOWN ON THE COUNTER." Someone either couldn't write or had a sense of humor.

Speaking of the workplace, next Monday is a holiday for most companies! Banks, post offices, and commentary writers are shut down...

Even though it is only the 11th, don't forget that that the FHA's new appraisal policy is effective with case numbers assigned on/after February 15: FHA-approved lenders are prohibited from accepting appraisals prepared by FHA Roster appraisers who are selected, retained or compensated in any manner by a mortgage broker or any member of a lender's staff who is compensated on a commission basis. (Mortgagee Letter 09-028.) READ THE MND STORY

Several astute folks pointed out that any statistics involving pools of jumbo loans are older production, often from 2005-2008, are not going to look good. The popular press often leaves information like that out of their reports: what the press portrays to the public is different. I agree, and savvy investors can reap some better-than-average returns. Many private money investors are reaping the benefits of higher returns making loans with no loss of sleep. There is a significant difference in the value of a mortgage which would pass FNMA's guidelines as "approved/ineligible" and the jumbo stuff generated a few years ago as stated income or Option ARM. There should be a healthy market for approved/ineligible current production.


Remember when cash-out refinancing was the bulk of your business, and any investor who would tweak their price slightly on this product would either see all or none of the business? Four or five years ago, that category of loan hit 88%, which, according to Freddie Mac, put another way, means that 9 out of 10 refi borrowers were increasing their loan balance! Now, however, the trend has moved in the opposite direction: in Freddie's latest quarterly survey of refinancings, 33% of homeowners put cash into the deal to lower their mortgage balances, which was the highest ever, and cash-out refi's are down to 27%. And why not, IF you have the cash - you're certainly not earning much on it in the bank - and if you'd like to qualify for a better rate by lowering your LTV. Columnist Ken Harney points out that it is one form of savings plan - just like it used to be!

Locks desks were steady last week, generally speaking, and the MBAA reported that their poll of applications fell a seasonally adjusted 1.2% compared with the week before. According to the survey, which is said to include about half of all US retail residential applications, purchases dropped 7%, but refi's rose 1.4%. Over the last four weeks apps are up almost 4%. ARM loans still account for less than 5% of volume, and refi's still account for around 70%.

ING's wholesale group issued a six page GFE/RESPA-related bulletin to their clients. I love reading bulletins like that, but in this case my eyes glazed over.  To the rescue came an astute originator, who wrote, "ING just changed their opinion on how to treat YSP in Box 1.  They have now deviated from the majority of investors (and compliance vendors) and say YSP does not go in Block 1.  Also, Calyx Point has come to this same conclusion and has a very odd work around." Any borrower comparing brokers with different opinions on how YSP should be treated will highlight the difference - just what we need.

US Bank's Wholesale Sales division announced their "FHA Appraisal Independence Requirements" in response to HUD's Mortgagee Letter 09-028. U.S. Bank Home Mortgage Wholesale Division will require its "Table Fund Lenders" and "CUSB Lenders" to order FHA appraisals through the US Bank's Appraisal Website starting on the 15th. "For FHA loans that close in U.S. Bank's name and/or are funded by U.S. Bank, the appraisals will be ordered in the Lender/Client name (same Lender name that orders the FHA Case Number), NOT U.S. Bank N.A. The Lender name is included in your profile and is furnished to the AMC. This will meet FHA guidelines and insure appraisal portability in those cases where a borrower chooses to switch Lenders. For all conventional conforming and non-conforming loans, the appraisal must be ordered in the name of U.S. Bank N.A. per earlier USBHM HVCC requirements."

U.S. Bank Home Mortgage Wholesale Division has received clarification from FHA that the effective date for their revisions to their "Anti Flipping Rules" is effective with sales contracts dated on and after February 1. (USBHM's Bulletin stated it was effective with submission to underwriting on and after February 1.) The investor's bulletin also followed HUD news on maximum loan limits, the adoption of the "Appraisal Update and/or Completion Report", and short sale covenants ("Borrowers are not eligible for a new FHA mortgage if they pursued a short sale agreement on his or her principal residence simply to; 'Take advantage of declining market conditions, and purchase, at a reduced price, a similar or superior property within a reasonable commuting distance.'"). And correspondent clients should know that USBHM will require that they rep and warrant "that appraisal conduct, in connection with all FHA mortgage loans, conforms to the Appraisal Independence Safeguards established by HUD per Mortgagee Letter 2009-28. USBHM must receive your written policies and procedures, including your updated Appraisal Policy, by March 31, 2010."

Yesterday was a pretty quiet day in the market, with a nice bounce in stocks and bonds not doing much of anything (although some investors made their prices worse late in the day). Due to snow, the House Financial Services Committee won't see Chairman Ben Bernanke on unwinding the central bank's expansion of liquidity, but they will hear his testimony read. READ MORE

Fixed income securities weren't helped by the $81 billion of securities to be sold this week, on top of the weather issues. The 3-yr auction was yesterday, 10's today, 30's tomorrow. The only scheduled news for today is the Trade Balance numbers. Of more concern, however, is the "sovereign debt" issue unfolding in Europe which focuses on PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain). Like our subprime issue, a problem in one area can start "the dominoes falling" depending on other country's exposure to another nation's inability to repay debt. A larger entity stepping in and announcing that it will stand behind debt helps to comfort the markets, which helped stocks yesterday.

Tomorrow we have Retail Sales. As you may recall (I don't), retail sales closed last year on a disappointing note falling 0.3 percent in December. Holiday sales, however, came in better than expected. But we may see a boost from chain store sales (up in January), gas station sales (gas prices went up a little), although auto sales are not expected to be good. For January expect headline retail sales to increase 0.2%. After the trade numbers (which showed a widening to $40.2 billion) the 10-yr clocks in at 3.63% and mortgage prices are better by about .125.

(Warning: jokes do not always reflect the opinions of the joke teller!)

A son asked his mother the following question: "Mum, why are wedding dresses white?"

The mother looks at her son and replied: "Son, this shows your friends and relatives that your bride is pure."

The son thanks his Mum and goes off to double-check this with his father.

"Dad why are wedding dresses white?"

The father looks at his son in surprise and says: 

"Son, all household appliances come in white."