Market Commentary 5/29/20

Core inflation is non-existent in the U.S. and for the moment presents no challenges to the Fed.There’s a massive stimulus being pushed out to the debt and equity markets as well as to Main street in response to Covid-19’s biologic shock translating into an economic one.

On Friday, Fed chair Powell reiterated a by-any-means-necessary attitude to support the economy in the event of the second wave of virus-related economic setbacks. Later in the day, the equity markets responded with relief to President Trump leaving the U.S.-China trade deal untouched.

Mortgage rates have remained flat even after Core PCE fell to less than 1%. While we believe mortgage rates will move lower later in the year, we still believe that banks are keeping interest rates padded above their corresponding benchmark U.S. treasury yields while simultaneously keeping an eye out for easing loan deferments and reduced unemployment. 

Americans’ savings continue to increase due to a combination of government assistance and sheltering in place. Evidence is mounting that consumption will rebound as life begins to return to normal. Traffic to websites such as Zillow has surged as prospective home buyers are researching potential new homes. Also, the stay-at-home orders have prompted people to re-evaluate their current housing situations. As a result, many families are deciding that it is time to look for a new home or upgrade their current home. 

In closing, Insignia Mortgage’s brokers are encouraged by the increase of purchase activity in the last few weeks. The coronavirus situation has temporarily stalled action in the real estate market, boosting supply. Buyers are definitely taking advantage of this situation and benefitting from historically low mortgage rates, which make housing payments very manageable.


Market Commentary 5/22/20

The U.S. economy is slowly reopening, a welcome sign to our small business owners. Social distancing will keep customer-facing businesses operating well below capacity. However, it is important that businesses open before too much time passes and customer habits change for good, and employees move on. Policymakers will be looking to balance the threat of the disease against the risk of long-term structural economic destruction as our country tries to normalize. It will be interesting to see how consumers respond to the re-opening of malls, restaurants, and other communal businesses.  So much remains to be seen. We hope only for the best. 

The weekly unemployment numbers continue to increase, but at a slower pace and within the range of economists’ expectations. Lower-paying, customer-facing jobs have been most affected. The government response to this crisis, while far from perfect, has been effective at getting money to those who needed it most. The government is expected to take some hit on the PPP loans and other disaster relief programs but those programs are providing a lifeline to small businesses. The Federal Reserve back-stopped the entire bond market preventing a total collapse in both the equity and debt markets. If the Treasury and Fed had not worked as quickly as they did, things would be much worse at the moment. While there is still a tremendous risk to so many business owners, and there’s a long road to recovery ahead, never underestimate American entrepreneurship and innovation.  

How the housing market will be affected by the pandemic over a longer period of time remains to be seen, but there are signs that some consumer behavior will begin to normalize. There is certainly pent up demand for many products which is encouraging for the housing market, and our consumer-led economy. Low interest rates (which may even go lower assuming a successful re-opening of the economy) should act as a tonic to both the purchase and refinance market.  Home supply remains constrained and the warmer weather of late spring and summer should act as a tailwind for people looking to buy homes as studies suggest coronavirus appears to be less virulent in the warmer weather.

Insignia Mortgage remains committed to helping clients access attractive financing. Our lenders continue to make common-sense decisions and offer out of the box solutions with very attractive interest rates and terms.


Market Commentary 5/15/20

In another dismal week of economic data, equity volatility increased while bonds closed the week out the week essentially unchanged. Further adding to the horrible economic news, U.S. and China tensions increased as well as the U.S. is set to impose restrictions against Huawei Technologies.

Fed chairman Powell spooked markets this week with his comments calling for more federal financial support or risk long-term damage to the U.S. economy. Truthfully, no one knows how the economy will re-open and we need to support our citizens with both monetary and fiscal stimulus to avoid small business owners sinking to a point of no return. Federal support along with congressional bipartisanship is needed as businesses many businesses will need the lifeline of the government to be in order to hang on long enough to gradually reopen during the coming months.  

On the residential lending front, we are starting to see a little bit more optimism as some lenders begin to loosen up Covid-19 related guideline overlays. This is welcome news as we are also seeing a slight uptick in new purchase inquiries in what is normally the busiest home-buying season of the year. Some lenders have lowered interest rates and expanded loan-to-value guidelines in a bid to grab market share. Overall, the lending landscape remains tough to navigate, but transactions are closing, and that’s a win in this otherwise challenging moment.


Market Commentary 5/8/20

The April jobs report was the worst on record with over 20 million of the U.S. workforce currently unemployed. Our hearts go out to each and every person who has lost their job as a result of Covid-19. However, the U.S. equities market is trading up today, so we ask ourselves, “what gives?” Perhaps the market is telling us the worst is behind us. We sure hope so, but we still believe there will be a tough road ahead as our governors and mayors slowly begin to re-open up the economy.

Interest rates remain pegged near zero on U.S. T-Bills and the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond has traded within a tight range over the last couple of weeks as volatility has subsided. However, mortgage rates have untethered from the U.S. Treasury rates as banks have raised interest rates and tightened guidelines, understandably. We expect mortgage rates to trade better if and when the U.S. economy can re-open without significant spikes in Covid-19 infections. 

Commercial lending, including multi-family, so far has been hit the hardest due to so many tenants or renters unable to pay their rent. Despite this, we are starting to see some relief as lenders slowly re-enter the market. Expect several months of payment reserves as part of the loan request, also known as an interest reserve, and reduced loan-to-values and risk-based pricing.

On the residential lending front, there has been no better time in my career to be a mortgage broker. Insignia Mortgage’s many long-term relationships are paying off as we are customizing loans for our clients day in and day out. Our suite of lenders all have different risk appetites, so having optionality and pricing power with different lenders has resulted in our ability to place loans that other large money center banks have declined. 

We continue to offer the loans for the following scenarios with very fair rates and terms:

  • Interest-only purchase loans, refinances, and cash-out loans for primary residences, second homes, and investment properties.
  • Non-occupant co-borrowers.
  • Foreign national loans.
  • Cross-collateralized loans and Asset consumption loans.
  • 1031 exchanges and loan structure with LLC, LP, or corporation as borrowers.

“Talking three P’s of 2020 with this year’s Top Originators” – Scotsman Guide 4/30/20

Insignia principal and co-founder, Damon Germanides, was interviewed on April 30, 2020, along with two of his nationally ranked peers in the mortgage industry for their thoughts on how the industry is moving forward under the shadow of COVID-19.

Each was asked for their Perspectives, Predictions, and Pointers. Damon noted that at Insignia Mortgage, “We’re getting deep into the financials to ensure that the bank can get comfortable with the deal, because that’s what this environment calls for.”

Read the full article on the Scotsman Guide website.


Market Commentary 5/1/20

Economic pain caused by Covid-19 deepened this week as the unemployment numbers hit 30 million people. Expect next week’s April jobs report to hit 20%. With consumer spending down, and so many people out of work, it was no surprise that Q1 2020 GDP contracted by – 4.80% and will likely be followed up by a much larger drop in Q2 2020. The Fed and the federal government are implementing a “by any means necessary” approach, which is echoed by the European and Japanese central banks and governments as well. These trends continue to backstop our economy. It’s hoped that the approach will boost economic recovery once the U.S. economy is turned on again, as well as support asset prices. We sure hope this is the case but are also aware that consumer and business behavior has changed due to the pandemic and the recovery could take much longer than anticipated. 

Regarding housing and lending, Covid-19 hit the spring buying season hard. However, interest rates remain low and may drop further over time, enticing more buyers into the market. There are also signs that the non-QM market is slowly reviving, which is a positive sign, especially for cities such as Los Angeles which have many self-employed borrowers. Big banks continue to pull back from the marketplace. Our office has received an unprecedented number of requests for financing the past few weeks as borrowers look for alternative financing options. We are happy to report that for the most part, our partner lenders remain committed to pulling out all the stops to help borrowers refinance or purchase homes. In our opinion, there has never been a better time to be a broker with long-term lending relationships and that is proving to be a great benefit for our clients during this very difficult time.


Marketing Commentary 4/24/20

This week saw better performing U.S. equity and public debt markets as day to day volatility subsided. The Fed and Treasury continue to step up to provide liquidity as Covid-19 has put most of the country on a standstill. Mortgage rates remain elevated against their historical benchmark of U.S. treasuries, and underwriting standards continue to tighten. Despite all this, our lending relationships are working very hard to close transactions. The job picture is awful, but that is expected as are poor earnings reports from U.S. public companies. There is no fixed or agreed-upon timetable for a return to normalcy, but we are seeing some U.S. cities and foreign countries start the process of normalization with a focus on social distancing. Oil fell below zero as demand for this commodity is low and storage is full.  We are watching auto sales, oil prices, and weekly unemployment for clues as to what to expect next. The only thing for sure is that no one knows for sure.

It is vital in this market to have strong lending relationships and that is what Insignia Mortgage was built around. Whether borrowers are looking for non-QM loans, bridge loans, investment property loans, or traditional financing, our team members are structuring transactions with our lenders day in and day out and securing financing for our borrowers on purchases and refinances. Rates are fair, and turn-times are manageable. 


Damon Germanides in Bloomberg.com

Insignia principal Damon Germanides was interviewed this week, on April 21, 2020, in Bloomberg.com in the piece “Wealthy Mortgage Borrowers Face Cold Shoulder From Lenders,” authored by Prashant GopalJohn Gittelsohn, and Shahien Nasiripour.

The article covers the counterintuitive situation in which many holders of jumbo loans find themselves in. With federal rates approaching zero, those seeking an advantageous refinance are finding lenders unavailable to offer favorable terms. Because jumbo loans are not backed by the federal government, they’ve gone from a lucrative market for banks to a near-pariah overnight.

Mr. Germanides is quoted at the end of the article in a comment on how a rock-solid homebuyer he’s working with is finding it more challenging to obtain a mortgage than he would have before the pandemic crisis hit. Loans are still going through, but it is harder “get them across the finish line.” Read the whole article here.


Market Commentary 4/17/20

The details of reopening our economy are still in flux. State governors are taking the lead and will coordinate their efforts for optimal results in that arena. Equity markets responded positively on Friday to some positive news from our biotech sector on cutting-edge coronavirus treatments. While we are a long way from a normally functioning economy, any and all positive news on how we can start to get back to work is welcomed. Expect April economic data to be horrific. The hope remains in a May re-opening of the economy safely and gradually. Look for a tick up in auto sales both new and used as a signal that we are returning to normalcy.

A national shutdown is a black swan event that is rarely accounted for in investment or lending assumptions. The pandemic has caused great suffering with unemployment expected to hit somewhere between 15% and 30% near-term, with a recovery thereafter. It is no easy task for lenders to navigate an environment where income is on hold, liquid reserves have been hit hard, and appraised values are expected to be lower, not higher in the foreseeable future. This is why lending rates are priced higher than what borrowers are expecting, which seems contradictory in this environment. The link between U.S. government and mortgage spreads has untethered as portfolio lenders (the only lenders in the jumbo mortgage space) demand a higher premium for elevated risk levels.

Portfolio banks are where deals can be done quickly and with certainty and this is where Insignia Mortgage shines. Our lending relationships for residential transactions are fully functional and while guidelines have been pulled back, you can expect reasonable purchase and refinance applications to close. Interest-only loans are still available as are cash-out up to 60% to 70% loan-to-value deals. We anticipate interest rates to gradually move lower as economic activity is ramped up along with the assumption that the virus curve declines as the economy opens.

from the desk of Insignia Mortgage

Insignia Mortgage Update On The State of the CA Residential Lending Environment

As of today, there are signs that the practices of social distancing, sheltering in place, and handwashing, are all helping to flatten the curve in California- Insignia Mortgage’s primary lending market. How the virus will affect our spending and work habits once we can go back to work is anybody’s guess, but it appears obvious certain sectors of the economy may not recover for many years. Other industries will likely get back to normal fairly quickly.

With these thoughts in mind, my hope is this note will give our borrowers and referral partners some updates about the state of the CA residential mortgage market.

Portfolio Lending By Banks and Credit Unions

Insignia Mortgage has long-standing relationships with local lenders, such as banks and credit unions who are still actively lending, although with tighter underlining guidelines. Loans originating right now include a small bump in interest rates to compensate for the perceived greater risks in the marketplace. However, overall interest rates and terms are still very attractive. Additionally, many big banks have raised interest rates and are focused on lending to current clients of the bank. 

For the most part, it is business as usual and the following loans remain available:

  • Interest-only loans are still available. 
  • Cash-out loans are still available as are complex loans, including those for entrepreneurs, foreign nationals, and professional real estate investors.
  • Foreign buyers can still finance their purchases. Expect 10% of the loan amount to be requested as a required deposit, along with 60% loan-to-values. For high net worth foreign buyers, lenders are still offering loan amounts up to $25 million.
  • Investment property loans are being capped at 60% – 70% off the purchase price or appraised value and interest-only options are still available. Transactions requiring complex underwriting which include transactions inside a 1031 exchange. Also available are loans requiring the borrower to be an LLC, limited partnership, or corporation.
  • Turn Times  Purchase turn-times are holding steady at around 30 to 35 days.  Refinance transactions are closing in approximately 40 to 55 days. Rush requests are being considered. 
  • Loan-to-value guidelines vary but you can expect deals to be looked at favorably with loan-to-values up to 80% of the appraised values. Consider that lenders are backing off on loan-to-value the larger the loan request. Most lenders we speak to are quite comfortable with loan-to-values at 70% of the purchase or appraised value and 65% on super-jumbo loans.
  • Loan Underwriting is an important matrix for the moment.  Lenders will consider liquidity and reserves more so than before as income is harder to assess while the economy is on lock-down.  Expect the lender to check on income status throughout the loan process, especially in industries where borrowers are unable to work.
  • Prospective borrowers with strong balance sheets including real estate with choppy tax returns are still excellent candidates for loans assuming liquidity can cover all mortgages for at least 6 months. 

Mortgage Banks

Mortgage banks that are offering anything other than government products are on hold. If the Fed is not active in that specific asset class (look up private RMBS), there is simply no bid for that security offering. 

However, with the massive liquidity flooding the market from central banks, we expect this market will return once the U.S. re-opens the economy, but with lower loan-to-values and higher FICO score requirements.

Bank Bridge Loans For Developers

One very interesting loan for real estate developers in the high end luxury market is a bridge-to-sell loan product that is still being offered by a large FDIC lender. This loan will take out the construction loan and give the developer up to 2 years to sell the property. 

Terms are as follows:

  • Max loan amount of 55% of appraised value up to $25 million.
  • 12-month interest reserve built into the loan.
  • Note rate of 6.50%.
  • Broker and Bank Origination Fee 2%, all in.
  • The home must be listed on the MLS.

Hard Money Loans

Bridge lenders are still offering loans but it is important that you know your lending source as re-trading and or non-performance near closing due to the investors’ cold feet is very possible. 


We are encouraging clients who are truly in need of forbearance to speak with their lender or loan servicer. However, it is important to keep in mind that forbearance is not loan forgiveness and the money will be owed at some future date. There are serious consequences to not paying your mortgage on time. Therefore, we are advising that borrowers seeking forbearance speak to their attorney, financial advisor, or CPA about the consequences of accepting a forbearance prior to going through with it. Accepting a forbearance today could prohibit you from being approved for financing later on and therefore the forbearance should be reserved for those borrowers who truly are in need of it and have no other means of paying their mortgage timely.

Property taxes are due for LA County and can be paid online. Other counties within CA should check due dates.

To sum up, we’re still going at it, as are our lenders. Terms have shifted in this new volatile landscape somewhat, but we remain actively committed to helping our clients resolve their mortgage needs during this unusual and complicated time. Please contact us by phone or email to get the ball rolling or ask any questions.

Be well and stay safe!

The opinions expressed above are the views of Insignia Mortgage. Individuals are encouraged to do their own research and speak to their individual advisors on the matters discussed above.