If someone reports their company for tax evasion in the U.S., he or she will receive 30 percent of the amount collected. Have you ever loaned someone money and had them not pay you back? Here’s one thing that you can do to them (IRS’ 1099-C). While we’re on the general topic, despite strong retirement savings, Fidelity Investments' Q3 2023 analysis reveals a surge in hardship withdrawals and 401(k) loans, addressing short-term financial challenges. By the numbers: 3 percent took hardship withdrawals (up from 1.8 percent in 2022). 8 percent tapped into 401(k) loans (compared to 2.4 percent last year). The silver lining? Retirement balances are on the rise, and savings rates remain steadfast. For those planning retirement, consider suggesting reverse mortgages as a game-changer. They offer an alternative, allowing access to funds without swiftly depleting hard-earned savings. If you haven’t set up reverse division at your shop, well, 10,000 people a day turn 62. Today’s podcast can be found here, and this week’s is sponsored by Gallus Insights. Mortgage KPIs, automated at your fingertips. Gallus allows you to go from data to actionable insights. If you can use Google, you can use Gallus. Hear an Interview with attorney Brian Levy on the NAR lawsuits and the implications for housing finance moving forward.

Broker and Lender Software, Products, and Programs

Are you a compliance nerd? A group of mortgage industry veterans has launched a software company for loan servicing that is getting a lot of attention. Keep your eyes and ears open for MESH software (Mortgage Enterprise Servicing Hub), which is their brand name for a series of software products aimed at loan servicers. The first product runs hundreds of compliance rules on loan portfolios daily, so servicers have a daily review of all loans against everything the CFPB, Agencies and States can throw at them. Look up “MESH Auditor”.

It's time to start planning for the year ahead! Join the Computershare Loan Services (CLS) team from January 22 – 24 in The Big Easy for MBA’s Independent Mortgage Bankers Conference. With CLS’ originations fulfillment, co-issue MSR acquisition, subservicing, and mortgage cooperative, IMBs can streamline their operations, minimize expenses, and maximize profits. Contact the CLS team today to schedule a meeting in New Orleans.

Ring in the new year with a kinder outlook by joining us for the highly anticipated "Kind Mindset" event presented by Kind Lending. Taking place on January 16th, 2024, at The Buckhead Club in Atlanta, GA, this immersive event is designed to empower attendees with valuable insights on growth, success, and mindset. With an impressive lineup of speakers, including Kind Lending's CEO/Founder, Glenn Stearns, and special guest Captain Charlie Plumb, 6-year Prisoner of War and former Fighter Pilot, this event promises to be a transformative and inspirational experience. Get ready to cultivate a "Kind Mindset" and embark on a journey of transformation and success. Register today.

Aging, Down Payments, and Housing Demographics

Do you think getting old is hard? The U.S. Census Bureau released a report showing that about 4 million U.S. households with an adult age 65 or older had difficulty living in or using some features of their home. About 50 million, or 40 percent, of U.S. homes had what were considered to be the most basic, aging-ready features: a step-free entryway into the home and a bedroom and full bathroom on the first floor. About 4 million or 11 percent of older households reported difficulty living in or using their home. The share increased to nearly 25 percent among households with a resident age 85 or older. Over half (about 57 percent) of older households reported their home met their accessibility needs very well, but only 6 percent of older households had plans to renovate their home in the near future to improve accessibility.

In general, Zillow expects home prices to remain roughly flat in 2024, with only a 0.2% increase in its housing market index. Existing home sales are expected to fall further to 3.74 million. Zillow does mention that this forecast does not take into account the latest forecast from the Fed, and the expectation for big rate cuts in 2024.

Falling mortgage rates have put some spring in the step of the homebuilders, according to the latest NAHB / Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. As one would expect, with mortgage rates down roughly 50 basis points over the past month or two, builders are reporting an uptick in traffic as some prospective buyers who previously felt priced out of the market are taking a second look. With the nation facing a considerable housing shortage, boosting new home production is the best way to ease the affordability crisis, expand housing inventory and lower inflation. But builders have lagged production for so many years…

Non-builder loan officers find the builder world a tough nut to crack. Many, if not most, big builders are dealing with the mortgage rate issue by subsidizing buy-downs. Builders generally build free upgrades into their models, and these funds are being used to buy down the rate. The builder gets full price for the house, loses a few points on the mortgage, which might have instead gone to upgraded countertops or something else.

Even if one can get approved for a loan, buying can still be prohibitively expensive. Receiving help from family and friends for that crucial down payment can be a major turning point for many consumers. In fact, nearly 2 in 5 homeowners (39 percent) have received down payment assistance, according to LendingTree's Mortgage Down Payment Help Survey, of nearly 2,000 U.S. consumers. 78 percent of Gen Z homeowners reported some financial support for a down payment, mostly from their parents. 54 percent of millennials have received down payment help, followed by 33 percent of Gen Xers.

Almost a third (31 percent) of Americans think putting down 20 percent for a down payment is obligatory. However, 59 percent of current homeowners say their down payments were less than 20 percent of the home’s purchase price, and just 29 percent put down 20 percent or more. One in 10 Americans never took out a mortgage, while 15 percent had a mortgage but have since paid it off. Baby boomers are the most likely to have paid off their mortgages, at 29 percent.

As anyone shopping for a home can tell you, it's slim pickings out there. For many years we have been seeing the biggest squeeze in the starter home category. It appears that for years part of the problem is a lack of confidence to move up to the next category. People in starter homes are staying put, which is keeping homes off the market.

Capital Markets

It was another slow news day yesterday without any meaningful economic data or news to move sentiment. However, investors are laden with optimism as a soft-landing for the economy comes into view and seem to be throwing caution to the wind with over 150 basis points of Fed Funds easing fully priced in for next year. In accordance with that, benchmark bonds rallied to fresh highs yesterday after the U.S. Treasury sold $58 billion in 5-year notes to excellent demand. The strong auction exposed some short positioning, and it invited additional late buying. That followed Tuesday’s $57 billion 2-year Treasury auction that attracted a record number of indirect buyers to snap up high yields before the Fed’s anticipated rate cuts, which are fully priced in to begin at the March meeting in just over 80 days. Yields on benchmark treasuries have dropped to levels not seen since the summer.

Today has a fuller calendar than the past two sessions in regard to economic news. We are under way with initial jobless claims (+12k to 218k, a little higher than expected), continuing claims, advanced economic indicators for November (goods trade balance, retail inventories, and wholesale inventories), none of which moved rates. Later today brings the NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index for November, Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, and another large amount of supply from the Treasury, headlined by $40 billion 7-year notes. We begin the day with Agency MBS prices worse a few ticks (32nds), the 10-year yielding 3.81 after closing yesterday at 3.79 percent, and the 2-year is down to 4.25.