Will lenders become landlords?

In a recent article on Money Marketing News they said that ‘Lenders in the UK are likely to become landlords by buying up distressed properties in an attempt to halt repossessions and stop house prices falling’ this was according to leading valuations firm eSurv.

This raises some interesting ideas for the Irish market which is seeing bad news filter through constantly, only today NIB released their figures showing they had lost over half a billion in 2008. The losses seem to be concentrated in their commercial lending sector, however, with such small margins on lending being one of their hallmarks, it is fair to assume that a few impairments would have an amplified effect compared to other banks.

In the UK the plan is to set up company that would purchase distressed properties and then turn them into a manageable portfolio until the market allows for disposal at a better price while offering finance against repossessed stock in order to improve marketability.

would this work …

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Financial road maps

Having a plan is important in many areas of life, I would feel it is vital in personal finance, yet a surprising amount of people totally fail on this matter and go through life in an ad hoc manner and they are often wondering why some people seem to do better even though they don’t earn as much as they do. Animals in the forest don’t worry about finance, they do worry about food though, hence they gather for winter, squirrels have figured this out so it is disappointing, given the superiority of human intellect, that many private individuals have not planned for an ‘economic’ winter.

A simple method is a budget, it can be complex or it can be crude but in either case having a crude one is better than having none. Sometimes this is worked out using percentages, for instance:

After tax income x 60% = all expenses (mortgages, bills, food, entertainment etc.)

After tax income x 10% = discretionary expenses (something you may have buy from time to time)

After tax …

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Housing dysfunction

There are some who are saying that there are amazing deals to be found in the current market and if you consider price only then you may be tempted to believe this. Yields could also present a strong argument for property investment if yields stay at historic levels, however yields are likely to fall in 2009 and will remain stagnant until at least 2011/12 for several reasons which we will outline, we will also look at some of the current dysfunction in the market by examining a few types of sellers and how their personal situations express themselves in their selling behaviour.

The first group bought in the last days of the boom, they likely used minimal deposits (or even 100% finance) in order to purchase and they are in deep negative equity, they are now no longer on fixed rates – which tended to be 1/2/3yr fixed- and may have moved into the variable market which revises their payments upwards. One can be forgiven for thinking they may be a ‘distressed seller’ – the distress …

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First Active set to close.

It was announced yesterday that First Active is going to close operations in Ireland. This will start with 750 job losses coming into effect via voluntary redundancies, 550 of which will be in the Republic. Unions in Ulsterbank/First Active have said that bank workers are ‘scapegoats’, we spoke about the coming job losses in April of 2008 here.

RBS have made record losses, this lead to their bailout by the UK government. On the ground here it means that at 45 locations First Active will merge with Ulsterbank branches. The removal of First Active from the market will mean there is less competition in Irish lending, this will set the basis for increased margins on lending – at a time when the ECB is dropping rates. Having said that, First Active and Ulsterbank prices are amongst the most expensive in the market with variable rates of over 6% when market leading rates are under 4%.

In …

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Beware the Contract/Valuation trap

Our firm has seen a rise in what we describe as the Contract/Valuation trap, so we will tell you what it is and how to avoid it as well as steps you can take should you find yourself in this position. The contract-valuation trap is one that occurs when the price of a property being purchased drops significantly between the time the contract is signed and the property is closed. All lending is generally based on LTV (loan to value – see our jargon page for a description of that), however, a valuation which sets the market price in the banks eyes is what the loan is based on, it is not based on what a person was willing to pay for it and this helps to give an independent opinion of the worth of a property.

Another issue is that in a falling market sellers become more ‘motivated’ and by that we mean that they will more readily accept a lower than asking price offer, …

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Approval in Principle, the flaws.

Our firm [and I am sure many brokerage firms] are witnessing a conundrum in the market which is causing both clients and the broker a huge amount of heartache. It is that of the ‘AIP’ or ‘Approval In Principle’ not being honoured by banks over short periods of time. One lender in particular [we can’t name names] is doing that on so many cases that we no longer consider their approvals as holding any relevance.

What is an approval in principle (A.I.P. is the broker-speak we use to describe them)? It generally means that you have given a bank enough information to make a strong [and yet preliminary] decision on a case, sometimes it is subject to further documentation, or they want to get a valuation report before making a full offer, in any case an AIP is NOT a loan offer but it is as strong an indication as one can get without dealing with solicitors, in the past an AIP was honoured almost exclusively and they were seen as fundamental to …

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Survival of the weakest, only in Ireland.

If the State can’t organise a bailout effectively then what hope have they of running a bank? A simple and yet profound question: if the bankers who run banks for a living (many having survived the 70’s and 80’s) can’t find the answers then what hope have the state who have no track record in doing so?

This is not a simple situation, banks that survived the Great Depression have crashed and burned, given this, is it vital to save every bank? Is a bank going to make it even with a slush fund? Thus far I remain unconvinced.

Anglo Irish Bank was set to get a bailout to the tune of 1.5 billion Euro. This couldn’t be arranged in time to save the bank and they have been nationalised, the speed of their fall from grace tells us at least some basic facts:

Anglo were not the strongest bank in the bunch, I won’t get into balance sheets, loans, impairments or anything else, the mere fact that they fell first …

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The end of ownership

I had an interesting conversation with an Estate Agent recently who has been in the industry for over thirty years and he said that he felt he was seeing the ‘end of ownership’ in the young people today. That really got me thinking.

‘What do you mean by that?’ I naturally enquired, and basically he said that he was seeing a trend in young people not feeling any incentive to buy a house, not only in the short term but ever, ‘why would they buy, kit a place out and go to all the expense when they can just rent a place ready to go and any problem is the landlords?’ was his response. And one must admit that there is a large dose of common sense in that. Renting is no more dead money than mortgage interest is dead money, however, what it could mean for the future is that we become a nation of landed and un-landed citizens, which is ironic given that land ownership has played such a strong part in …

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New trends in underwriting and credit

It is 2009 and one of the things we need to look at (at least from the mortgage market perspective) is the availability of credit. Many associations such as ISME and politicians such as Joan Burton have voiced strong opinion on the need for credit to be extended to small businesses. The same credit contraction is happening in lending for property.

While our firm, and almost everybody involved in the mortgage market accept that we are not at market clearing levels, the unavailability of credit for those who do wish to buy and are capable repaying their loans is going to cause an unnecessary distortion which will drive prices down further than is rational. Without getting too deeply into the reason for the credit contraction/deleveraging process which we have covered many times here before, the point of interest is the new brand of underwriting we are likely to see.

In the past people within the financial industry were looked upon favourably, not only due to the fact that they normally represented a …

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The bailout has arrived, Irish banks in line for Government funds.

The banking bailout has come along, as many of us always thought it would, in the form of a (potential) €10 billion Euro package. An announcement was made yesterday and shares in financial institutions surged on the back of the news. The actual details of the deal are scant at present.

The Minister of Finance remarked on RTE radio that the main thing he hoped to see as a result of this was for lending to return to the market, we can only assume this refers to enterprise lending and not to mortgages as the mortgage market has not frozen to the same degree the business loan/credit area has.

The National Pension Fund Reserve is the area the funds will come from, an obvious issue here is that the fund made losses of c. 33% in the last year and cashing out now will mean those losses are crystallised without hope of return should the markets come back any time soon. …

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