MReport October 2020

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M R EP O RT | 19 COVER STORY at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Ginnie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regarding the policies, programs, and procedures within their respective offices. The Hon. Brian D. Montgomery, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), made a special appearance to detail the work of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) during the ongoing pandemic. "In the current pandemic, FHA was able to build up their reserves to arguably the highest amount ever in the last actuarial review, close to $109 billion of what we call MMI capital. And even in our most recent report to Congress, we're still showing that the reserves made strong. I know folks were talking to us about lowering premiums and all that. And it's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, but it's good that we didn't." Montgomery added that both FHA and Ginnie Mae possess the capital "it will take to weather the storm," noting the agency is also working to focus on nonpandemic crises including responses to recent hurricanes, as well as the regular day-to-day operations that were never put on hold during this period. "In a lot of different ways, FHA and HUD needs to be there for Americans, certainly during the good times but even in those times that are more challenging," he said. A FORCE on the Front Lines T he state of the real estate industry, the nuances of the servicing businesses, and govern- ment issues were all discussed at the Five Star FORCE Summit on the second day of the conference. The Summit began with the State of Real Estate keynote, with First American Corporation Chief Economist Mark Fleming discussing the current state of the residential real estate market, price trends, for- bearances, and the impact of current events on the REO market. Following the economic update, summit attendees learned some of the essential basics of the busi- ness, including education, training, and certifications that enable one to excel. Partnerships with REO companies were also discussed. "It's important for agents to foster relationships with different people," said Jacquelyn Pardue, Head of Procurement, LoanCare. "The more positive you can be with those people, the more likely they are to respond to you; the more likely they are to refer you somewhere else that could better answer your questions if they're not the right person." The business operates on 30-day cycles, Pardue added, so it's impor- tant to build relationships when actual business activity is slow. Industry experts followed that session with an in-depth over- view and timeline for managing REO properties to provide a better understanding of how one's role as an agent comes into play. Knowledge of government poli- cies is essential for the success of the business, so the final event of the day included in-depth discus- sions of how to negotiate the regulatory maze, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. "The communication from our government partners is so much better now than it was in the 2007-2008 period," said John Dunnery, adding that not everything affecting real estate is related to the pandemic—such as the hurricane that recently swept through the Gulf of Mexico. "We are dealing with other things as well," Dunnery said. "One is the FHFA announcement around the refinance surcharge in order to increase revenue for the GSEs for refinances. That was a surprise to the industry. I don't think anybody expected to see that for several reasons: Property values are now high; people have several ways to exit the property; we don't have adverse market conditions other than that there are too few homes for buyers who may want to get into home ownership." To deal with the crunch of for- bearances, some had recommend- ed looking at auto-enrollment, but some may borrowers may not need forbearance, said Jim Scott, SVP of Default, LoanCare, LLC, a company that has helped 155,000 with forbearance during the cur- rent COVID-19-related financial crisis. "It's important that you have conversations with borrowers to learn what actually has occurred, what are those impacts, and how we can assist them. At LoanCare we've opened up our website and our virtual response unit to allow borrowers to self-service." The GSEs had to rise to the challenge presented by the eco- nomic fallout of the pandemic, said Jake Williamson, VP, Single-Family Collateral Risk Management, Fannie Mae. "As of a couple of weeks ago, we produced over 40 lender letters for selling, collateral, and servicing policy changes to respond to the crisis. All of that has been done in about five months. In normal times, that's about two years' worth of work. Not only has that been diligent work by Fannie Mae, but also many industry participants, servicers, appraisers have made Herculean efforts." Williamson added that the market remains strong for REO properties. A Wealth of Insights I n the weeks ahead, we'll be sharing longer samples of some of the many conversa- tions that unfolded at Five Star Virtual Conference. Stay tuned to, theMReport. com, and—as well as the pages of DS News and MReport magazines—for longer interviews with many of the Conference speakers. NOTE: You can still experience the Five Star Virtual Conference's content digitally. Visit to watch videos on demand. Cockwise from left: Jennifer Gordon, First VP, PennyMac Loan Services; Caren Castle, Senior Mortgage Servicing Attorney, The Wolf Firm, A Law Corporation; Patrick Cox, SVP Operations, PHH Mortgage

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