Market Commentary 10/6/2023

Strong Jobs Market Boosts Equities 

A better-than-expected jobs report had a strong negative impact on both the bond and equity markets Friday morning, with the initial market reaction suggesting that good news might be bad news for bonds. However, a closer examination of the jobs report data reveals that wage increases are flattening, and hours worked are declining. This likely explains the subsequent market reversal, with mortgage bond yields still up but not as much, and the equity markets rallying. On the downside, the probability of yet another rate hike increased after the latest jobs report, with the odds of a hike rising from last week’s 18% to around 30%. 

It’s almost as if the WSJ has been reading our blog (joking), as Friday’s paper featured an article explaining the importance of shopping for a mortgage in today’s lending market. Banks are now offering varying interest rates, with differences of up to 1%. This aligns perfectly with what we do at Insignia Mortgage. Our experienced and dedicated broker team actively seeks the best execution for each deal by matching a borrower’s financials with the best-priced lender. Given our expertise in reviewing complex financials, we’ve noticed significant variations between lenders. Our hard work continues to pay off as clients trust us to secure their unique mortgages. 

Look out for a recap of our recent loan successes for more insight into the complexity of our client financial scenarios. While the market may be volatile, our commitment to creating individualized lending solutions remains steadfast.  

Scotsman Guide Profiles Romy Nourafchan As ‘Top Jumbo Originator Nationwide’

Romy Nourfchan was recently profiled in Scotsman Guide as a “Featured Top Originator” in the nation, for his debut as No. 1 on Scotsman Guide’s newest ranking ‘Top Jumbo Originators.’ The article, written by Hannah Darden, details Nourfchan’s journey to success in this niche lending space and Insignia Mortgage.

“My career started in 1990. For seven or eight years, I worked as a broker, then went into banking and worked for big banks and a few smaller banks,” Nourafchan said. “Over this time, my strategy has always been to go after jumbo loans … and continually build my business on higher dollar amounts.”

– Romy Nourfchan, Scotsman Guide “Featured Top Originator” October 2023

Watch the interview below, or read the full article here.

Romy Nourafchan of Insignia Mortgage shares his experience as a luxury broker with high-end clients in this installment of the new Featured Top Originator video series. Nourafchan, who placed first in Scotsman Guide’s 2023 Top Jumbo Originators rankings and 20th in the Top Mortgage Brokers rankings, was chosen as October’s Featured Top Originator. To learn more about Nourafchan, read the full FTO article here: To see the Top Jumbo Originators or Top Mortgage Brokers rankings, visit the Top Originators homepage at…

Market Commentary 9/29/2023

Better-Than-Expected Inflation Readings Fail to Lower Rates 

Although the market welcomed a better-than-expected core PCE report (the Fed’s favored inflation gauge), it had a less-than-desired impact on bond yields. Several factors may have contributed to this subdued response from the bond market. The looming government shutdown, with a staggering $33 trillion in debt, has cast a shadow on any other momentum. In addition, a significant strike by the United Auto Workers is likely to encourage other large unions to demand higher wages. Matters become further complicated by the tight oil supply causing oil prices to push back toward $100 per barrel. 

Speaking of oil, it is worth noting that the PCE metric excludes the more volatile components of inflation, namely food and energy. With energy prices surging in recent months and the cost of living growing larger, this report offers little relief to most Americans. 

Homebuyers Barred from Market Due to Mortgage Rates 

Higher mortgage rates are now dampening demand, making the market inaccessible to many potential homebuyers. Homebuilders try to clear inventory by reducing prices and offering substantial incentives, such as 2-1 buydowns on mortgage applicants. While the tight supply in the resale housing market prevents prices from dropping significantly, an economic downturn could leave people struggling to afford mortgage payments as other costs rise. In California, the soaring costs of health and homeowner’s insurance are becoming increasingly burdensome for small businesses and homeowners. Credit card costs have also shot up, comfortably exceeding 20%. 

Lower-rated credit card borrowers are beginning to make delinquent payments, signaling that the Fed’s substantial rate hikes are starting to take a toll. However, despite some receding, inflation is not rapidly decreasing. Americans are grappling with both higher capital costs and increased expenses. While the economy continues to show resilience, many are beginning to feel the severity of a slowing economy and a higher inflationary environment. 

Prominent figures like Jamie Dimon and Bill Ackman, both Wall Street legends, would not be surprised by higher rates. They foresee rates settling above 5.00% at the long end of the curve. We share this view and are closely monitoring how the markets adapt to a world of elevated interest rates. 

Circling back to mortgages, this market remains difficult and fragmented.  The days of speaking to one or two banks on a deal are gone. Insignia Mortgage provides value by surveying many different lenders on each deal and locating incredibly competitive terms for prospective borrowers, especially those borrowers with more complex or nuanced financial profiles. 

Market Commentary 9/22/2023

A Quick Comment on the Fed, Bonds & Housing


The bond market, which had initially resisted the idea of a prolonged period of higher interest rates, has embraced the idea that inflation is likely to remain elevated. We have consistently stressed that transitioning from a 3% to a 2% inflation rate would be fraught with challenges. As inflation accelerates, bond investors are increasingly seeking higher yields to compensate for this risk. Additional factors exacerbating the inflation issue include surging oil prices, large unions demanding substantial wage increases, a staggering $33 trillion deficit, and a Federal Reserve engaged in selling (QT) rather than buying bonds, among other pressing concerns. Unfortunately, none of these factors bode well for lower interest rates. The Fed’s recent communication, particularly the dot plot, has pushed expectations of rate cuts further into the future. This is because the economy continues to perform better than anticipated, and some indication that inflation may have plateaued at a level that remains unacceptably high for most Americans. While the likelihood of a soft landing is slim, we recognize that anything is possible in these complex economic times.


Shifting our focus to bonds, it’s intriguing to consider why many on Wall Street seemed caught off guard by the prevailing interest rate environment. Although we acknowledge our own past misjudgments, we have consistently argued that there is a high risk of shifting toward a higher interest rate environment. Assuming inflation stabilizes at 3%, and incorporating a term premium of 1.5% to 2%, longer-dated bonds should hover around 4.50% to 5%. This appears to be the new normal, and individuals and businesses alike should base their investment and lending decisions on these assumptions. The far-reaching impacts of rising interest rates are just beginning to permeate the system. We can attest to this firsthand as prospective borrowers grapple with refinancing challenges and encounter difficulties in qualifying for new purchases.


While housing affordability remains a significant issue for many, home prices continue to remain high and are even rising in certain markets. In hindsight, the reason for this becomes apparent: nearly 15 years of ultra-low interest rate policies have left the majority of U.S. homeowners locked into mortgages below 5%. This has discouraged potential sellers from listing their homes, while higher rates have deterred would-be buyers. In an unusual twist, the forces of supply and demand are to some extent canceling each other out. This dynamic has helped sustain property values in the non-ultra-luxury segment of the market. 

Still, there are signs of potential trouble ahead as home builders are starting to offer major incentives such as 2-1 buy downs on mortgages as well as lower prices, in an effort to stimulate volume. Additionally, pressure increases on the commercial and multi-family segments of the market as loans begin to adjust. In some cases, current values considerably decreased compared to just a few years ago.

Market Commentary 9/15/2023

Additional Fed Hike by Year End Suggested by High CPI Readings  

Bonds continue their upward trajectory in response to the latest CPI and PPI inflation readings. As we’ve often pointed out, the path from 3% to 2% inflation presents many challenges. Both the Federal Reserve and the average American consumer face escalating home prices, rising food costs, and surging energy expenses. 

While financial experts may attempt to interpret inflation reports in various ways, we believe it’s crucial to focus on food and energy costs. These commodities, although volatile, are indispensable elements of our modern world. Therefore, the persistent high costs of food and energy, coupled with ongoing wage inflation, are likely to keep the Federal Reserve from implementing any interest rate hikes in the upcoming week. Our expectation is that they will project an additional rate hike in November. Furthermore, it’s prudent not to anticipate any rate cuts from the Fed until at least the end of next year. 

In the broader real estate market, office spaces continue to face problems. Nevertheless, there is a growing trend of companies reintroducing return-to-office requirements for employees. This shift could establish a floor for declining office values. In certain cities, office property values have plummeted by over 50%. What was once deemed a prime asset class is undergoing a transformation. Newer, amenity-rich office spaces may thrive, while older, cash-cow office buildings owned by generational landlords might ultimately be more valuable as land than as operational structures. However, there is emerging concern about the multifamily real estate sector, as a substantial amount of multifamily CMBS debt is set to mature in 2024 and 2025. In contrast, the single-family homes market remains largely unaffected by rising interest rates. This is primarily because many potential sellers are holding onto mortgages with rates below 5%. Such favorable rates are discouraging homeowners from listing their properties for sale.  

Our attention is now focused on the 10-year Treasury yield, which recently closed just below 4.35%. Should it breach this level, yields will likely surge past 4.5%. There is currently little evidence to suggest that interest rates will move lower. It’s worth noting that interest rate cycles tend to be lengthy, a point emphasized by the renowned bond investor Bill Gross, often referred to as the “Bond King.” Gross once underscored the significance of the 30-year bull market in bonds, where declining rates are considered bullish in bond markets, as one of the defining features of his career. 

Insignia’s Neil Patel Featured In MPA Magazine

Congratulations to Neil Patel for his recent feature in MPA Magazine as a Top Originator! Neil has been a rockstar on Insignia Mortgage’s team for several years as a mortgage broker and CPA.

“In the heart of Beverly Hills, where the real estate market is as dynamic as the city’s famed boulevards, Neil Patel stands out as a mortgage strategist who’s not merely crunching numbers but turning complex transactions into success stories. 

Patel (pictured) is a licensed mortgage broker and CPA at Insignia Mortgage, specializing in underwriting loans for borrowers with complex financials and tax returns.

A specialist in complexity

While many mortgage brokers might shy away from complicated cases, Patel and his team at Insignia Mortgage lean into them.

Focusing on boutique mortgages, they cater to a unique clientele: the self-employed, high net-worth individuals, and those whose financial situations might seem like a puzzle to most.

“A lot of Los Angeles people are self-employed,” Patel said. “They tend to have self-employed tax returns, LLCs, and corporations.”

This often leads to a disconnect between what’s on paper and the client’s actual financial standing. But where others see complications, Patel sees an opportunity to bridge the gap, simplifying these complexities for underwriters and banks.”

Read the full article now at

Market Commentary 9/8/2023

Has Inflation Peaked? Bond Market Yields Suggest Uncertainty… 

Where Does Inflation Go from Here? 

A peak in service inflation may be on the horizon. A noteworthy example is Walmart, one of the nation’s largest employers, which recently announced that new hires will be earning less. This adjustment signifies a potential slowdown in wage inflation, which had surged to unsustainable levels due to the pandemic, supply chain bottlenecks, and substantial government stimulus. Initially encouraged by the Fed, this wave of inflation is unlike anything witnessed in the past 40 years and was largely due to the assumption that inflation would be transitory. 

While we are witnessing some moderation in inflation concerning goods (though still too high by our standards), service inflation remains persistently elevated. This is placing significant strain on businesses of all sizes, as consumers are becoming less tolerant of higher-priced goods and services. This is why the Fed is not rushing to lower interest rates.  

The situation becomes increasingly complex when we consider why interest rates remain high despite indications that inflation might be cooling off. Two key factors come into play. Firstly, the price of oil, hovering around $90 per barrel, is preventing a more significant drop in inflation. Although the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has declined from over 9% to roughly 3.2%, moving from 3.2% to 2% will be a lengthy process for the Fed. Secondly, the massive budget deficits of many developed nations are no longer being disregarded by bond traders (this includes the United States). Our government’s debt burden has led bond buyers to demand higher yields to compensate for the perceived risks associated with holding such bonds. 

Lastly, it is important to recognize that interest rate cycles are lengthy, whether on the ascent or descent. We are currently on an upward trend. Unless significant adverse events occur, this trajectory is likely to persist.  Assuming a 3% long-term inflation rate, it is not inconceivable that longer-dated bonds trade between 4% -5%.   

In the Next Two Weeks… 

Keep a close watch on next week’s inflation readings and the subsequent week’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting. In the current climate, everything revolves around inflation and interest rates. Additionally, pay attention to the 10-year Treasury bond, which is teetering at the 4.25% mark. If it breaches 4.35%, the markets could face a challenging remainder of the year. 

Market Commentary 9/1/2023 

Bonds Can’t Catch A Break Amidst Unemployment Rate Increase 

The July Jobs Report brought encouraging signals for both the bond market and the Fed. However, the workforce saw an influx of more workers than could be absorbed, resulting in the unemployment rate rising from 3.50% to 3.80%. While wages are still growing, they are beginning to moderate and show signs of trending lower. This shift might provide the Fed with justification to hold off raising rates at its next meeting. Although the futures market indicates around a 40% chance of a November rate hike, we anticipate that this might mark the last rate increase of the cycle (if it does occur). On the other hand, mortgage bonds and Treasury yields oddly increased, potentially influenced by a weakening dollar and surging oil prices. 

Nonetheless, it’s important to avoid drawing broad conclusions from a single report. Commodity price inflation and service inflation remain high, and the Fed would likely want to see more substantial declines in these numbers. Conversations with local business owners reveal that input costs are eroding profits. Passing these increases on to customers is becoming increasingly challenging. The persistent difficulty business owners have in finding staff is keeping wages elevated. Notably, a major national retailer catering to lower to middle-income consumers, Dollar General, has reported that its customers are feeling financial pressure and adjusting their purchasing habits. This demographic has been hit hardest by elevated prices and could be a significant concern for the Fed. This context supports our belief that even if the Fed stops raising rates, a downward shift in interest rates might be a prolonged journey. Fed Funds rates could remain potentially elevated well into 2024 or even 2025. 

Loan Success Takes Grit 

Navigating the mortgage landscape is no longer a straightforward endeavor. While we maintain access to excellent products and lenders and are successfully closing loans, the path can be turbulent. Underwriting guidelines at banks are tightening, debt funds and mortgage banks are grappling with an illiquid secondary market, and limited housing supply in major cities complicates loan qualification. Financing costs have surged while housing prices have remained stagnant, particularly affecting higher-end home purchases. In this landscape, experienced mortgage brokers are proving invaluable by sourcing better-priced loan options, exploring more nuanced alternatives like interest-only or investment property loans, and connecting with smaller banks that embrace innovative thinking. Our broker team at Insignia Mortgage, for instance, achieved over $40 million in closings in July, while our fix-and-flip and bridge lending arm, Insignia Capital Corp, closed over $12 million in business. It was far from effortless. What matters most is that all our clients successfully completed their crucial transactions. 

Loan Officer Wealth Podcast Features Damon Germanides and Chris Furie

The Loan Officer Wealth Podcast with Chris Johnstone interviewed Insignia Mortgage co-founders, Damon Germanides and Chris Furie, in episode 113 released this week. The Loan Officer Wealth podcast is designed to share the systems, habits, and secrets that top-performing professionals use to build a life of wealth and freedom. This is the first double episode of the podcast that has ever been produced. The formatting was adjusted to honor the fact that Insignia Mortgage’s co-founders, Damon & Chris, are ranked #4 and #7, respectively, on the Scotsman’s Guide for 2023’s Top Mortgage Brokers. When combined, they make Insignia Mortgage the largest volume lender in the nation. In this episode, Johnstone discusses the dynamic partnership that has helped Damon and Chris grow their incredible business, Insignia Mortgage. They also share their journey to becoming Top 10 Mortgage Brokers on the Scotsman Guide, the process of working their leads, database, and referral partners, as well as tips on refining your niche.  

Listen now via Apple Podcasts, or Spotify, or click the image below.

Market Commentary 8/11/2023

Rates Can’t Catch A Break  

Although the Fed is making progress in the battle against inflation, a tougher phase awaits in substantially curbing inflation due to the so-called base effects. The forecast for tougher times cemented itself after surpassing last June’s 9 percent plus CPI reading. Some experts on Wall Street anticipate that inflation readings for August may climb higher since July witnessed significant hikes in oil, gas, and other commodity prices. While service and wage inflation has shown moderation, their persistence coupled with recent wholesale inflation figures indicates a larger-than-anticipated rise. Our stance remains that the Fed will not be lowering rates anytime soon, considering the daily struggle of America’s most vulnerable to cope with rising costs. 

The combination of stubborn inflation and a budget deficit of more than 1 trillion dollars puts pressure on US Treasuries and government-guaranteed mortgage debt. Concerned voices are clamoring in response to the size of our debt and its long-term sustainability. Global issues further complicate the US Bond market with Japan’s loosening yield curve control, China and Europe’s economic dilemmas, and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Investors are demanding higher yields, a phenomenon reflected in the 10-year Treasury comfortably crossing the 4.00% mark, with longer-term bonds nearing 4.500%. The point at which these elevated yields begin impacting the equity and housing markets is uncertain. However, it is increasingly likely that both sectors will be negatively affected by rising rates. 

We recently emphasized the significance of the Fitch downgrade of the US credit to AA+. Although Wall Street didn’t fully grasp the implications of this situation, the narrative has evolved. Unlike 2011, this downgrade reflects much higher debt/GDP ratios, unsustainable budget deficits, and a more dysfunctional US political system. Whenever the cost of capital is negatively influenced, it deserves serious consideration. 

From our network of banks and lenders, we’re hearing signals that the long and variable impacts of Fed policy are starting to reverberate through the system. Delinquencies and loan modifications on commercial loans are on the rise. Businesses are facing squeezed revenue and operating margins. Credit card balances are soaring. These effects warrant careful observation in the upcoming months. 

Our broker team invests significant time in discovering new lenders, many of whom remain unfamiliar with the market. It might sound biased, but having a robust mortgage broker on your side is crucial in today’s landscape. Transactions are encountering a myriad of issues, and the ability to swiftly pivot to a new lender or solve a problem is invaluable. The Insignia Mortgage broker team excels in both these domains, while also securing the most competitive rates and terms for complex loans. The days of relying solely on one big bank for client loans are long gone. 

During our recent attendance at the Inman conference in Las Vegas, NV, we gathered intriguing insights from various speakers about the market’s current state: 

  • Quicken Loans anticipates improvements in the rate market in the coming months. The drop in mortgage brokers, real estate brokers, and salespersons signifies the existing home market remains somewhat stagnant. While it presents challenges, it could pave the way for those who navigate it successfully. 
  • Traditionally, existing home sales constituted a major portion of the market, but current homeowners are reluctant to move. However, around 25% are planning to relocate within the next few years, aligning with Quicken’s recommendation to persevere. 
  • Zillow predicts that rates will remain high for longer than Wall Street anticipates. Service inflation and housing shortages contribute to inflation, and the focal point for home buyers should be millennials, who are expected to make up 43% of new home buyers. 
  • The mortgage and real estate industry must adapt to AI (Artificial Intelligence), incorporating it into lead generation and follow-up strategies. With AI we can achieve more with less. The challenge lies in how effectively we embrace it. While 20% will seize the opportunity, the remaining 80% might miss out. Those who embrace AI stand to gain efficiency and profitability.