Lots of people in the real estate & mortgage businesses make a lot of money. As we head toward Thanksgiving, sometimes it is a good thing to remember that many people around the world don't. The video is six minutes long, but you can get the message after watching it for only two: http://biggeekdad.com/2010/10/two-dollars-a-day/.

The video focuses on people too poor to move, but here in the U.S. many can afford to move but don't. A snapshot of 2010 showed that 59% of us lived in the same state in which we were born, per the Census Bureau. Louisiana came in 1st with almost 80% of its residents being born there, followed by MI (77%), OH, and PA. At the other end of things, AK, AZ, FL, NV, and Washington DC all had less than 40% of their residents being born in that state. (Nevada was less than 25%.)

Congress passed a bill, and President Obama signed it, that allows the FHA to back mortgages of up to $729,500, six weeks after the limit dropped to $625,500. The move makes it easier for more buyers to get low-interest FHA loans. Obviously members of Congress had trouble letting Freddie & Fannie take on any more risk given the billions in taxpayer money that have gone their way. The two agencies are politically toxic, but legislators felt pressure to re-raise the limit, so compromised by raising the FHA limit. Loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue to have a $625,500 limit. Loans that exceed the Fannie, Freddie and FHA limits move into the jumbo realm, as we know, where 30-yr mortgages carry higher interest rates and require 20% or more down. FHA programs usually allow lower down payments and are more forgiving of imperfect credit, but also carry higher fees, so more-affluent buyers tend to prefer Fannie and Freddie loans when they qualify for them. Critics are quick to wonder about extending a high LTV loan at a low interest rate under the FHA program rather than a Fannie or Freddie program, but so be it.

Through all of this, it is useful to take a quick historical look at how the government influenced Fannie & Freddie, and was instrumental in putting the U.S. housing & credit markets where they are today: www.stratmorgroup.com.

And while we're on the agencies, Fannie Mae sent servicers an update on its flood insurance policy. Effective immediately, servicers must provide evidence of flood insurance coverage within ten days of receiving a request from Fannie Mae as part of Fannie Mae's flood insurance compliance testing process.  Details about appropriate documentation and instructions for responding to such a request will be provided by Fannie with the request.  In the announcement, Fannie reminded servicers that mortgage loans secured by property located within a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) must have sufficient flood insurance from origination through the full term of the loan, or as long as the property continues to fall within an SFHA.  Properties not within an SFHA at origination, but that subsequently fall within such an area due to remapping, also must have adequate coverage.  As a result, servicers are required to monitor such changes and ensure that proper coverage is obtained as needed.  A copy of the Fannie Mae announcement is available at: https://www.efanniemae.com/sf/guides/ssg/annltrs/pdf/2011/svc1120.pdf.

NMLS course providers will want to check out the "The final functional specification of all NMLS Approved Courses" which has been posted in the course provider section of the NMLS Resource Center under Notices and Examples.  "The functional specification includes detailed requirements that must be met for all four course formats which may be employed to deliver NMLS approved education, including classroom courses." See the courses here.

All across the nation NMLS classes are happening. As an example, in the San Francisco area there is a live continuing education class next Tuesday (11/29) hosted by San Francisco Peninsula CAMP. Class will be taught by Belinda Austin from Online Education and will be held in South San Francisco. Interested parties should contact Michelle Velez at cambinfo@gmail.com for the registration link. (Cost is $89/ members and $119/ non-members plus the $12 NMLS filing fee.)

STAR? The Fannie Mae Servicer Total Achievement and Rewards (STAR) Program "supports the industry by establishing a transparent and formal framework to recognize our servicing partners for their competency, capacity, and overall performance. The STAR Program provides clear expectations and specific, consistent measurements to help Fannie Mae servicers increase their focus on reaching out to struggling borrowers and helping them resolve delinquencies: https://www.efanniemae.com/sf/servicing/starprogram/index.jsp.

On October 1, 2011, Freddie Mac amended its requirements for servicing mortgages, specifically for the acknowledgment and consent to electronic transactions. "In lieu of having the Servicer or Borrower, as applicable, prepare, sign and send, return, or submit paper documents, such as Form 710, Uniform Borrower Assistance Form, explanation letters, solicitation letters, evaluation notices and other forms and documents in connection with consideration for a reinstatement, relief or workout option the Servicer may either: Mail, fax or electronically transmit copies of the loss mitigation documents (excluding letters a Borrower must provide) to a Borrower or permit a Borrower to copy, print or download a copy of the loss mitigation documents via a secure Servicer-provided Internet web site and permit the Borrower to complete, sign and fax copies (or e-mail copies) of the signed loss mitigation documents to the Servicer (Note: Under some State laws, an individual may not be required to transmit his/her Social Security number over an unsecured electronic channel), or give the Borrower a secure means of access through which a Borrower may prepare and electronically sign loss mitigation documents (including letters a Borrower must provide) and submit them to Servicer.

"Only" one bank was closed Friday by the FDIC: in Louisiana Central Progressive Bank wasn't so progressive, and now its depositors will see First NBC Bank (also from LA) on their bank statements.

Looking at the investors, GMAC spread the word that "VA Funding Fees for VA Home loans closed on or after November 18, 2011 will decrease pursuant to previously enacted federal legislation" but probably only for a very short period of time. Also, the GMACB product guidelines for VA IRRRL transactions have been revised to permit the use of conventional exterior-only appraisal inspection reports for IRRRL transactions that involved the refinance of VA mortgages, not currently serviced by GMAC Mortgage ("Non-GMAC-to-GMAC").

SunTrust introduced temporary VA Funding Fee changes for Veterans and new Per Diem Extension costs.

MF Global I Securities Inc. has been suspended and removed from the Chase-approved Securities Dealer list for Assignment of Trade (AOT) transactions.

And, if anyone is still using Bank of America as a correspondent take-out investor...10/21 was the last day to lock for longer than 30 days, and 10/24 the mailings went out terminating the Loan Purchase Agreement (LPA) and Early Purchase Agreement (EPP) addendums. Halloween saw the last day to lock Best Effort commitments and Mandatory trades. November 21 was the last day clients could deliver loans (credit packages) to Correspondent Lending for prior underwriting decisions. December 1st marks the date that loans with application dates of December 1, 2011 or later are not eligible for purchase by Correspondent Lending, and December 5th is the last day to deliver any loan to Correspondent Lending for purchase - December 15th being the last day Bank of America Correspondent Lending will purchase any loan.

If there is any good news out there, it is that rates continue to be very good. (Although lenders are reporting that the number of qualified borrowers who can refinance is slowing moving lower.) The financial media seems focused on the inability for the Congressional "Super Committee" to reach any agreement on budget cuts. This can't be a surprise to anyone. The members were on the Sunday morning talk show circuit to blame the other side for the failure. Remember, though, that the failure to strike a deal on long-term deficit reduction in and of itself may not be a catastrophic negative for markets since it was expected.

We're also grappling with, as we will be for years, the problems in Europe - and remember that they don't have Thanksgiving over there. It is a holiday week here, but we do have some economic news squeezed in: today is Existing Home Sales, tomorrow is GDP, and Wednesday is Jobless Claims, Personal Income & Consumption, and Durable Goods. In the early going we have the 10-yr down to 1.95% (from 2.00% Friday) and MBS prices better by .125-.250.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

I used to eat a lot of natural foods until I learned that most people die of natural causes.

Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.
Have you noticed since everyone has a camcorder these days no one talks about seeing UFOs like they used to?
Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.
In the 60's, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.
How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?

If you're interested, visit my twice-a-month blog at the STRATMOR Group web site located at www.stratmorgroup.com. The current blog reminds everyone about how government intervention in the housing market is nothing new. If we forget history, we are doomed to repeat it, and it is important to know the last 15 years of the history of the agencies. If you have both the time and inclination, make a comment on what I have written, or on other comments so that folks can learn what's going on out there from the other readers.