Insignia Mortgage Welcomes Patrick McKenna

We are excited to share the latest addition to our all-star team at Insignia Mortgage, Patrick McKenna, a seasoned broker associate. Patrick brings a wealth of experience and expertise to our organization, having been in the mortgage industry since 1997. His success in the lending business is truly exceptional. In 2003, Patrick founded Direct Financial Group Inc. in Irvine, CA, and quickly grew it to $1b per year in loan fundings. He has also worked at Union Bank, Banc of California, and CS Financial.  Most recently, he held the position of President at Palisades Funding, Inc., a boutique mortgage brokerage in Pacific Palisades, CA that catered to high-net individuals and developer-financing needs. He is currently the President of Palisades Development Company Inc., a high-end property developer. In addition to all his accolades in the mortgage industry, Patrick has an MBA and BA. Insignia Mortgage looks forward to providing an even higher level of success and elevated service to our clients, with Patrick on board.  

Patrick McKenna

“I am thrilled to be working with Insignia Mortgage as their loan programs, knowledge of the industry and professionalism will go hand in hand with my clientele in helping fund their mortgage needs.  Insignia really has become the premier loan origination company and it’s an honor to work with everyone involved.”

Learn more about Insignia Mortgages’ individualized lending solutions and why we are California’s Jumbo Loan Experts. Connect with us today at (link to contact us page).  

Podcast “MPA Talk” Features Damon Germanides

MPA Talk, the podcast for U.S. mortgage professionals by MPA Magazine, featured Insignia co-founder, Damon Germanides, in their latest episode entitled “Serving Up Solutions.” In this episode, host Simon Meadows interviewed Germanides for his perspective as a broker who specializes in complex loans, particularly for those who are self-employed. They discuss how he cut his teeth in the last big financial crisis of 2008, before co-founding Insignia Mortgage in Beverly Hills, California, in 2010. Beginning slowly, the company established relationships with smaller banks and credit unions, to build the business to where it is today. The son of a restaurant owner, Germanides likens the mortgage industry to the restaurant industry in terms of the tough challenges it presents – it’s been his driving force to succeed.

“My dad owned a restaurant for 43 years, an, that business is such an tough business that I used to look at the mortgage business and say, ‘as tough as it is today, man, the restaurant business is, is even tougher’. I’ve picked tough businesses because both of them have their challenges. That was a driving force early in my career, knowing how hard another business was, made me pretty tenacious.

When 2008, 2009 hit, my good analytical skills really started to shine because the business had moved away from the limited information type loans or the no doc loans or whatever. You had to have a complete understanding of the borrower’s financials, which required mortgage professionals to start to learn to read tax returns, understand cash flow, you know, do a sensitivity analysis on revenue and income, understand everything on the borrower’s financials and that, that really fit well with my skillsets.”

Damon Germanides, on why his key skills made him a good fit for the mortgage industry.

Listen to the full episode below, or via your podcast streaming platform of choice.

MPA Talk, July 21, 2023, featuring Damon Germanides, a broker who specializes in complex loans, particularly for those who are self-employed.

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Market Commentary 1/13/2023

Interest Rates Drop As Markets Look Beyond Fed Hikes

First, the good news. Inflation is falling and it appears that the Fed is near the end of its tightening cycle. Odds are that the Fed will raise .25 bp in February and again in March before stopping. While inflation is still excessively high, shipping costs have dropped back to pre-pandemic levels, used autos prices have fallen, and other goods have followed suit. Gasoline prices are lower and the supply chain is functioning much more efficiently. The job market remains tight and that is still of some concern for the Fed. However, the pace of wage increases is lessening. Bond yields and mortgage rates have also lowered as the 10-year Treasury is now around 3.44%.  This has helped bring potential home buyers back into the market. 

Now, the not-so-good news. Negative ISM readings, surging credit card debt, an inverted yield curve, and warnings from CEOs such as Jamie Dimon on the state of the economy have all of us on “recession watch.” Generally, it is hard to bet against the U.S. consumer and business owner. Nonetheless, there are signs that consumers are tapping into credit cards more often to pay for life necessities, and business owners are cutting back on staff and hours of work per week. How this plays out over the next couple of months will be an important sign of where the economy is headed.

The hope remains the Fed will thread the needle and the economy may experience a very mild recession. The strong jobs market supports the no-recession argument, while other economic indicators suggest otherwise. The effects of the Fed’s jumbo rate hikes and quantitative tightening have yet to be discerned, as the monetary policy takes some time to work into the system. Lending standards at banks continue to tighten. The overall rise in short-term rates will affect consumers and business owners this year, as debt service costs increase quite dramatically for debtors who either have a floating rate debt or debt coming due.

Home builders reported soft sales volume. While many builders are offering incentives to lure buyers, builders are holding back on price cuts. Housing valuations have held up well and better than some expected. Why? The combination of a low fixed-rate mortgage, a 10-year + period of strict loan underwriting, and a big move-up in home values is keeping pressure on sellers to cut deals. Should the economy move into a recession later in the year, sellers will be more willing to negotiate or list their property for sale as their finances become strained. For the moment, although the housing markets are slow, the drop in interest rates has got buyers looking again. Given that home affordability is stretched, lower rates are needed to jump-start real estate activity. While interest rates are not likely to move to pandemic levels, our experience is that should mortgage rates settle in under 5.000%, borrowers will respond positively. 

Market Commentary 11/18/2022

Mortgage Rates Continue To Fall In Uncertain World

Over the past several decades, the inverted yield curve has been a tried-and-true recession predictor. With some parts of the year yield at historically wide inversions, financial conditions are becoming too tight. This indicates a strong likelihood that the economy is slowly marching toward a recession. However, there is evidence to the flip side of this argument, including consistently strong employment data, decent capital spending by companies, and a rebounding stock market.

Housing has been hit pretty hard by the 4 super-sized rate hikes by the Fed, with more upset on the horizon with the additional hikes anticipated in December and early next year. The terminal rate should cross 5.00%. Some Fed officials have opined the need to go much higher to stomp out inflation.  A recent Fed study on housing speaks of the potential for a 20% adjustment to prices in specific markets.  Speaking to our market, prices will continue to come down, but the lack of inventory will set a floor for how low prices can go. As long as California continues to be a robust and diversified economy, wealth creation, weather, and opportunity will support prices better than some other parts of the country. Nevertheless, affordable housing remains a big problem on a national level, and the Fed will want to see housing prices fall. Such a decline won’t be as severe in the more undersupplied and desirable areas.

Important Update On Mortgage Products

Insignia Mortgage has located a few portfolio lenders willing to offer very sharp pencils on non-traditional loan products. These non-QM products rely on post-closing reserves more than income analysis.  Loan amounts go up to several million with a 30% down payment. Interest rates begin at 5.00% or so. We share this info because these types of products are crucial for the high-end markets, especially with the move in interest rates. Borrowers are struggling to qualify for loans due to the rapid rise in rates, and the fact that interest-only loans require an additional stress test, making it difficult for well-qualified borrowers to obtain financing. 

Market Commentary 11.11.22

A Welcome Sign of Relief on the Horizon

I believe I speak for all in my profession that Thursday’s better-than-expected inflation reading and subsequent broad rally in bonds and equities was a welcome sign of relief. However, let us not forget that a one- or two-day rally does not make a trend. Inflation is still at 7.70% (but hopefully moving lower), the economy is weakening as layoffs mount and geopolitical tensions in Europe and Asia remain high. The CPI report did take some pressure off of the Fed to continue to move in 75 bp increments, to a more measured approach of 50 or hopefully only a 25 basis point increase. The Fed wants the entire yield curve to be restrictive, which means making interest rates higher than inflation. The reading the Fed prefers, the core PCE was around 5% in November. Therefore, the Fed’s work is probably not done, but fears of rates touching 6% or so have been taken off the table. 

Crypto Collapse – Gold Rallies

One of the great ironies this week was the absolute collapse of cryptocurrencies as more traditional asset classes such as gold rallied impressively.  Crypto is a trillion-dollar asset class (down from 3 trillion) and may still pose some systemic risks.  This may have also been attributed to the massive rally in bonds on Thursday with the so-called “flight to quality trade”. 

A move lower in interest rates will help boost home sales and commercial real estate transactions.  The rate of change in interest rates really hurt the marketplace. Should interest rates continue to fall and should the 10-year settle in at the 3.500% range, a pickup in transaction volume will follow.  Also, equities (not meme and high beta stocks with no earnings) have retraced a good amount of their losses which should bode well for consumer confidence assuming the rally sticks. 

Market Commentary 10/28/2022

Markets Anticipate More Dovish Fed Commentary Next Week

The combination of a strong GDP report, the 10-year Treasury bond decreasing from 4.300% to 4.000%, and the signs inflation may be leveling off (albeit slowly) served as tailwinds for the equity markets.  The result is another winning week. Risk-taking has been reignited, with the “fear of missing out” pushing stocks up, even amidst the multiple headwinds circling the economy. We’re hopeful these animal spirits make their way into the real estate and lending markets. The dramatic rise in interest rates will likely keep investors waiting for either a further reduction in real estate prices or a bigger drop in interest rates. Banks remain both cautious and passive in pricing loans, given that risk-free rates will be near 4.000% next week. 

We anticipate next week to be momentous with the Fed meeting mid-week and the release of the October employment report on Friday.  The probability of .75 basis point increase in Fed Fund rates is over 80% and is the most likely outcome when the Fed convenes. The rip higher in the equities market as well as persistent inflation combined with less than awful corporate earnings will justify the Fed’s continued hike on rates. It is important to remember that the Fed will be moving the Fed Funds Rate up by yet another .75 basis points soon, and these are dramatic moves. The impact of these moves will not be immediate. It takes time for these rate hikes to make their way into the real economy. Experts believe the lag effect of these hikes is around 6 months.  Financing costs for consumers and business owners have surged this year, from credit card financing charges to mortgage and auto payments, as well as business and corporate loans. The higher cost of financing will hurt demand as these costs are absorbed.  Many fear that the Fed’s medicine of swiftly raising rates to cool inflation is worse than just living with inflation. We believe the Fed is correct in addressing the inflation problem, but that their pivot from inflation is transitory. Destroying demand through higher rates is a dangerous prescription and could lead to a financial accident.    

Getting a read on interest rates is perplexing. Inflation is still way too high. The Fed’s preferred gauge of recession probability, the inversion of the 3-month to 10-year Treasury, inverted recently.  This supports the notion the Fed has tightened enough and should take a wait-and-see viewpoint. I am certain real estate brokers and mortgage professionals would welcome a break from what has been a formidable marketplace.

Market Commentary 10/21/2022

Bond Yields Drop & Equities Rise On Dovish Fed Commentary

Over the last seven days, U.S. equity markets dismissed a number of negative events in order to close the week out higher. Fed speak on Friday helped boost the markets. The Wall Street Journal reported that some Fed members are not certain that short-term interest rates should continue to move up so quickly.  It’s a strange world we live in when the comments from one Fed official can move markets so erratically.  We maintain our residence in the cautious camp when digesting incoming news about company earnings and costs. Whether it be JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon, or Jeff Bezos of Amazon, many CEOs share a batten the hatches sentiment. Housing and commercial real estate are under tremendous pressure, oil is stubbornly high, and overall input costs continue to rise. Inflation will be with us longer than expected. 

The Fed has hit the markets very hard with what will be four .75 basis point rate increases after the November meeting, within a very short time period. It takes a while for these hikes to make their way through the economy. Banks are seeing an unprecedented number of deposits leave their institutions. It is obvious that liquidity is being sucked out of the economy very quickly. Should the Fed continue with rate hikes at current levels, the likelihood of a financial accident may become all but certain. Therefore, slowing the pace of rate increases is probably wise.

Stay Calm, Stay Cautious, and Take The Market Week By Week.

Until the Fed slows the pace of rate hikes, or, we start to see some signs of easing inflation, both business and real estate activity will be light. It is going to take a moment for businesses and consumers to adjust to a higher-rate environment. Business values as well as real estate values will need space to adjust. The good news is with every passing month, we get closer to interest rates normalizing, and hopefully, inflation moderating. Again, we don’t see inflation dropping to 2% overnight, but gradually leveling off. Calmer bond and equity markets will spur housing demand and fuel consumer confidence.    

One other positive note, public company earnings have beaten expectations. This report supports a strong U.S. economy despite those companies forecasting tougher times ahead. This is both good and bad, as the Fed may use these positive earnings to validate additional rate hikes. The Fed’s mixed messaging amongst Fed Governors presents many different outcomes. For this week, it was a dovish tilt on rate increases, and the market rejoiced. 

Market Commentary 10/14/2022

Inflation Proves Hard To Tame As 10-Year Tops 4% 

A market with no memory is one that can produce a 1,500-point upswing in a day, even when a hotter-than-expected CPI reading was reported (markets are down as I write this on Friday morning).  While a relief rally after a near week of selling was welcomed, big reversals like Thursday’s are symbolic of a bear market. Inflation is a problem and while there are some indications that it has peaked (dry bulk shipping, decline in oil and commodities), inflation is still overwhelming the system. The Fed is set to raise another super-sized .75 bp in November.

We are worried that these massive hikes will strengthen the chances of a financial accident. To date, the hikes have certainly crushed demand for real estate. This defeat is evidenced by the bank’s commentary on origination this morning.  Asset prices will need to adjust to a 7.00% average on 30-year conforming fixed-rate mortgages (although jumbo loans are cheaper).  Both consumer and business debt costs have risen dramatically.  We expect a surge in auto and mortgage delinquencies to follow, as well as an increase in business bankruptcy. 

There is not much to add from the last few weeks commentaries. Rising inflation, combined with the Fed’s expected response to it, continues to manipulate market action. The debt markets are showing signs of stress and banks continue to pull back on lending. A recession is very likely if the US is not already in one. Watching the bond market for clues to where the economy is headed seems logical. Should the 10-year break out above 4%, beware of even more pain.

Market Commentary 07/01/2022

Mortgage Rates Fall As Recession Fears Intensify

Treasury yields quickly raced to well under 3.00% this week. In my opinion, this is not a good sign of things to come. Recession fears have escalated. The long bond acts like this when recession fears rise.  GDP now has economic growth at -2.1%. Micron, a major chip supplier, guided down and reaffirmed what many of us already know. The economy is slowing. The combination of Fed rate hikes and quantitative tightening is a dangerous cocktail for the equity, real estate, and debt markets. I am hearing from several banks that liquidity is quickly drying up. They are weary to lend, and risk spreads have increased. As expected, housing supply has jumped as homeowners look to sell before things get worse, or in some cases unload their second or third home. A violent stock market and bitcoin correction have consumer confidence at a many years low, with liquid savings and retirement accounts down a great deal.  With margins being squeezed and earnings estimates falling, S&P year-end estimates have come down with year-end S&P to be somewhere in the range of 3,200 and 4,100.   

Where Do We Go From Here? Equity, Real Estate, Inflation. 

First, let us start with the equity market. Equities rise and fall and are prone to large drawdowns and rebounds. Many of us got into trouble chasing momentum stocks and high beta tech stocks, which have no earnings power.  Stocks represent ownership in a business, but zero rates and money spraying had fooled many professionals into believing that stocks only go up. The same applies to crypto. 

Two, regarding real estate, price is what you pay, and value is what you get.  Homes are a bit different asset class than other real estate as many homeowners were able to lock in exceptionally low-interest rates. Even if the housing market declines, homeowners will be able to service their debts. Home appreciation over the last few years has been unsustainable. The new listings appearing amidst the dwindling economy warrant the need for a correction. People are becoming increasingly cautious. As interest rates return to the historical mean, speculation will lighten, and buyers and sellers can enter a more even playing field.   

Three, the Fed will beat inflation. It is already happening. It will occur at a significant cost and over time, but inflation will come down. The Fed’s tools are very good at breaking inflation (higher rates and quantitative tightening). The collective negative sentiment compounded with quickly deteriorating financial conditions indicates the need for the Fed to halt its rate-hiking cycle expeditiously. The 2-year Treasury has fallen mightily the last few days which supports the notion of fewer rate hikes ahead.

Finally, it is important to remember that this is a long game. Absent the last 20 years or so, recessions and rebounds were much more common.  Recessions clean out the financial system and are healthy.  Speculators are taught about assessing risk, bad companies die off – clearing the way for new more innovative businesses, and prices reset allowing investors to buy assets for cheaper.  While I may be negative on the markets currently, I am always bullish on America. We have so much to be grateful for, even in tough times.

Have a great 4th of July.

Market Commentary 6/17/2022

Fed Committed To Fighting Inflation With .75 BP Rate Hike…Expect More To Come.

“Don’t fight the Fed” was last week’s theme. Until recently, many of us failed to understand that this statement is tantamount to their management over both easing and tightening cycles.  As stated previously, the Fed’s primary concern is inflation. Their policy decisions will be centered around curbing inflation. Should housing, crypto, or equities continue to get crushed, the Fed will not intervene. The great washout has begun. The Fed is reducing liquidity from the markets by raising short-term interest rates and letting bonds run off their balance sheet. In many ways, the equity market is doing a lot of the Fed’s work. As many equities are down from anywhere between 20% to 80%, we can’t help but feel poorer and less eager to spend. This sentiment will make its way through the economy, and eventually help to bring costs down. This includes costs of goods and services, as well as wages, all of which constitute a large business expense for companies.

Adding Salt To The Inflation Wound: Rates & Real Estate

Mortgage rates are back to 2008 levels. Housing starts are down dramatically.  Consumer business confidence is miserable. The pain load placed on our investments is all part of the plan to crush inflation.  It is disappointing that the Fed and Treasury placed their bets on inflation being transitory. Much of this destruction could have been avoided by slowly removing extra-accommodative policies from the financial system last year.  Now, we face a very turbulent financial period. All this amidst having just a glimpse of a return to normalcy after experiencing a once-in-a-century pandemic. Ouch. 

Part of me never thought we would see 6.00% 30-year fixed mortgage rates again in my lifetime. Yet higher rates are upon us. Housing prices have to adjust in the face of higher rates. Mathematically, you cannot have a doubling of interest rates without an adjustment to home values or cap rates on commercial properties. It will take some time for the market to adjust, but there will be an adjustment. Banks are also tightening credit standards as the fear of a recession increases. Personally, I think we are already in a recession. I don’t believe the recession will be too severe, given the strong balance sheets of businesses and a tight labor market.  However, the Fed is committed to slowing the economy down and they will probably succeed. 

Interest-only loans adjustable rate mortgages (ARM’s) will become much more popular with home buyers, especially with the elevated mortgage rates. It seems fairly certain that short-term rates will come back down if inflation readings abate, but only after the Fed raises rates by as much as 300 bp in the next 12 months. Should the S&P fall by another 20% down to around 3,000, it is hard to imagine the Fed would continue the tightening cycle. Those taking short-term ARM”s may benefit from falling rates a couple of years from now.