Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: hasta la vista, baby!

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have provided mortgage "liquidity" for the past few decades. While they are not government programs, they are government-sponsoredprograms, and had to be bailed out by the tax payers when the housing crunch hit.

Now, there are plans to eliminate or reduce Fannie and Freddie over the next few years. There are also plans for the government to get out of the mortgage-guarantee biz entirely, except in times of a financial crisis. (Which I don't get; how would that be different than what we have now? But I'm not an economist.) See G. Morgenson's NY Times article here; also has a good analysis.

Here's my take on how this will affect housing markets (hint: not good). Disclaimer: I'm not an economist, and could likely be very wrong. But every analysis I've read says that it will be harder to buy a home. So here goes with my personal analysis:
1. Taxpayers/taxpayers. Taxpayers may no longer be on the hook for bailing out Fannie and Freddie. But many taxpayers will no longer be able to buy a home and hence take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction.
2. Banks/banks. This will definitely put more power over the housing market into the hands of the banks. Banks will have to deal with less government interference. And they still may have a back-stop during financial crises. However, fewer people will be able to afford homes and after all, the banks don't make money unless buyers borrow money.
3. Landlords and landlords Less home sales mean more home renters, which is good for landlords. However, it will be harder to sell rental properties.
Now, for the losers/losers:
4. Home buyers, home sellers and Realtors: If you're a home buyer, you'll need a bigger down payment. If you're a home seller, fewer able buyers may translate to lower prices. And if you're a Realtor (hey, I can add some self-interest here) you'll be looking at less transactions all the way around.
If you think I'm wrong (and I hope I am), I'd love to know your opinion and your reasons.

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