Do boom and bust cycles in real estate only happen in the United States? Of course not: Boom&Bust

Here's a campaign hitting the public: Zillow Mortgage Marketplace is giving out Lowe's gift cards to borrowers who contact them for a quote between 4/28 and 5/4 and the loan closes before 7/5. The cards are worth up to $1,000 for SFH, primary residence, $250-417k, FICO greater than 720, LTV less than 80%, in certain states. Here you go: LowesZillow

Is it my imagination, or does the public's memory last only a few weeks? Or is it just because the financial press is on to the next shiny object? I mention this because I noticed the news yesterday that the Japanese stock market index (Nikkei) hits highest level since the earthquake. Remember the earthquake in Japan, right? Heck, remember hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, or the havoc wreaked by the tsunami in Indonesia?

When you're hunkered down over that tall cool one this weekend at the bocce ball tourney, ask the person standing next to you, "In the first quarter of 2011, how many housing units are there in the US?" The answer is 131 million. Of those, about 86% are occupied, 57% by owners, 29% by renters, and 14% (nearly 19 million units) are vacant. In this country the home ownership rate is about 66%, down slightly from the previous quarter and year. The Census Bureau reports that the homeownership rates were highest for those householders ages 65 years and over (81%) and lowest for those under 35 years of age (38%) - no surprise there. Lastly, the homeownership rate for non-Hispanic Whites was highest at 74%, while "Black Alone householders" was lowest at 45%. CensusHouseholds

Yesterday I discussed hedging cost, and received this from a grizzled industry vet: "Well you mention a lot of pipeline management items in your hedge cost and unfortunately that falls under the secondary guy. It is up to him or her to track their pull through by broker, LO, and retail office, establish the lock and renegotiation policies and monitor these activities, and operational efficiencies of the loan flow through the pipeline and upon delivery of the final product. This part of the job is not glamorous, but extremely important to remain profitable. Since it is under the secondary marketing's P&L, they have to make sure all the gears are in sync to ensure profitability. Nice 'pin cushion' position!"

LO's know that borrowers can obtain their IRS Transcripts within minutes, many times before they are available to lender.  They can just call 800-908-9946, press (1) for English (assuming you're reading this), give their social security number when prompted, and give the street numbers of their address on their tax returns.  The borrower should then listen to the automated message and when it prompts to submit an order by pressing (1) don't - the borrower should hit zero (0) until it brings them to the operator. At that time the borrower can verbally request a faxed copy of the years' transcripts needed, but remember that the borrower will be asked personal questions for all people on returns will be asked such as: what form they filed, address, SSN's, names, number of people on returns, whether it is a business or personal fax, and so on - almost as much as standing in line at the post office.

Although one conference in New York is fast approaching, there is another one that is on many folks' radar screens: the Texas Mortgage Bankers Association Convention (their 95th) May 22-25 in Austin. The marketing material notes, "We have been fortunate to line up a level of speakers that rivals any national event: David Stevens (transitioning from FHA to the MBA), Barbara Desoer (President of Bank of America Mortgage), Pat Sheehy (runs Chase's Correspondent and Rural Housing groups), Vicki Bott (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Single Family Housing at HUD), Mitch Kider (Chairman of Weiner Brodsky Sidman Kider PC), Steve O'Connor (SVP, Government Affairs at the MBA)," and so forth.  Over 500 are expected to attend this event in The Great State of Texas, and they promise not to talk about seceding from the US during the conference: TexasMBA

You'll be hearing a lot about this, but come September the days of, "I'll fax you the appraisal" will be history. To illustrate, Wells Fargo's correspondents recently received a Newsflash with topics that included, "FHFA's Uniform Mortgage Data Program, GSE Required Uniform Appraisal Dataset, GSE Uniform Collateral Data Portal, and GSE Uniform Loan Delivery Dataset." "(Last year) FHFA announced that under its direction Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are working together to develop and implement the Uniform Mortgage Data Program (UMDP) to provide uniform appraisal and other Loan delivery data standards, as well as a joint appraisal data delivery system for conventional conforming Loans. UMDP is intended to drive quality by collecting and evaluating standardized loan-level data from lenders." Wells' goes on to address their specific updates related to this program, but notes that the Uniform Appraisal Dataset includes all required data points for a complete appraisal report form and standardizes key appraisal data for a subset of fields on the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac uniform residential appraisal report forms, and the GSE's will be requiring appraisals to conform after 9/1.

In fact, Wells Fargo Funding will expect all conventional conforming loans submitted for purchase to comply with the effective Agency UAD requirements. Get used to it - sellers across the nation will be expected to review and update their internal processes and procedures to accommodate the implementation of new GSE electronic appraisal data requirements.

Speaking of which, business is springing up regarding the Uniform Collateral Data Portal (UCDP) and Uniform Mortgage Delivery Program (UMDP).  For example, the Mercury Network's support of MISMO formats provides Mortgage Lenders, AMC's and your appraisers the ability to stay pace with these GSE's requirements.  a la mode is the company behind the Mercury Network, the nation's premier vendor management platform for Mortgage Lenders and AMC's to manage appraisals.  The Mercury Network allows your appraiser's to deliver you appraisal's today in both a PDF and MISMO XML data format. And no, this is not a paid announcement, but apparently they have over 10,000 appraisals going through the Mercury Network daily.  For more information contact Marty Richardson at

Who has been buying securities backed by mortgages? Over the three week period ending on April 13, domestic bank holdings of agency MBS have increased by $26 billion (from $1,093bn to $1,119bn). This sharp rise occurred after bank holdings of agency MBS remained nearly flat for about 3-4 months. In addition, a major portion of the recent spike in bank holdings of agency MBS can be attributed to the purchases of large banks instead of small banks (large bank holdings are up $21.5bn over the three week period ending on 4/13). This is unlike with the prior 3-4 months when agency MBS holdings of small banks continued to increase while those of large banks remained flat or even declined. It is also apparent that domestic banks that were aggressively growing their Treasury holdings (and agency debt) instead of agency MBS holdings in 2009 and 1H'10 are preferring agency MBS over Treasuries over the past several months.

Things seem pretty slow out there, with a light day in Asia, Europe wrapped up with the wedding holiday today and Bank Day coming up on Monday, and the devastation in the South from the tornadoes. 170 tornadoes through 6 states! (Japan's markets were closed today, and next Tuesday through Thursday as the Golden Week holidays begin.)

Yesterday rates improved as Initial Jobless Claims jumped 25K last week with continuing claims posting a decrease. Pending Home Sales for March came in much stronger than expected, possibly due to buying ahead of the FHA MIP change. The 1st quarter GDP printed worse than expectations at +1.8% (is the economy slowing back down, or did it pick up in the first place?), and a weak 7-yr auction. The 10-year note closed higher by 14+/32s (3.314%) and rate-sheet MBS prices were better by about .250-.375.


Special Terror Announcement (especially for the French):

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved."

Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out.

Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the B--stards." They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout loudly and excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."

The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose."

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be alright, Mate." Three more escalation levels remain: "Crikey!"; "I think we'll need to cancel the Barbie this weekend"; and "The Barbie is canceled." "The Barbie is canceled" has never been reached