Forensic Underwriting, when is it 'too much'?

Lenders will underwrite loans. That is part of the process, it is a natural and normal occurrence in finance, to underwrite, to ensure that you are researching the proposed deal to the extent that you can be sure that you are not taking a pointless risk, but when is it ‘too much’?

Traditionally an employee would be asked to give several forms of documentation as evidence of their position so that they could be considered for a loan. Normally this would have been a straight forward process, and one that generally works.

However, as of late we are seeing ‘forensic underwriting’ becoming more prevalent. The degree to which a lender wants to delve into a persons situation is rising beyond the traditional norms and in some cases we believe it is going well beyond the call of duty.

Let’s be frank, we need banks, who else will lend money to a stranger to buy an asset? Without banks it would only occur between people who have a lot of money personally …

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Forensic Underwriting, when is it ‘too much’?

Lenders will underwrite loans. That is part of the process, it is a natural and normal occurrence in finance, to underwrite, to ensure that you are researching the proposed deal to the extent that you can be sure that you are not taking a pointless risk, but when is it ‘too much’?

Traditionally an employee would be asked to give several forms of documentation as evidence of their position so that they could be considered for a loan. Normally this would have been a straight forward process, and one that generally works.

However, as of late we are seeing ‘forensic underwriting’ becoming more prevalent. The degree to which a lender wants to delve into a persons situation is rising beyond the traditional norms and in some cases we believe it is going well beyond the call of duty.

Let’s be frank, we need banks, who else will lend money to a stranger to buy an asset? Without banks it would only occur between people who have a lot of money personally …

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Homeloan carry trade, profit from your mortgage?

‘Carry trade’ is where you borrow and pay interest in order to buy something else that pays higher interest, the difference (when it is working as planned) is called ‘positive carry’. Usually this is done in bonds or currency, for instance, if you were to borrow money on short term rates to finance longer term bonds. The interest being paid on the long term bonds minus the interest on the short term borrowing would be the ‘carry return’. In currency the Yen was a very popular carry trade currency as their interest rate was 0%. So you could borrow in Yen, buy something else (unfortunately this money often ended up in CDO’s) such as US Tnotes and keep the difference, the main risk being that one that the Yen would strengthen significantly meaning you couldn’t pay back the original loan.

How does this affect mortgages though?

NOTE: THIS IS NOT A SUGGESTION THAT YOU DO WHAT IS DESCRIBED HERE! THIS IS MERELY MAKING A POINT!

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Short selling, what is it? What does short selling do?

Most of us are familiar with the idea of being able to buy and then sell a share, normally this is referred to as going ‘long’ in other words you feel it is a good share and you want to hold on to it. The opposite of this is where you sell and then buy which is going ‘short’, in other words you don’t think the stock is good and you don’t want to hold on to it so you borrow it and sell it today, buy it tomorrow (and dispose again to the original owner) and your position is set by the difference.

In a short sale a drop in the price makes you money because (for instance) if you sold today at $3.00 and bought back at $2.80 then you made 20c per share. If however, the price goes up to say $3.20 then you have to make up the difference. This is before we get into other areas like options or any derivatives. An easy …

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The secondary insurance market ‘settlements’

Often you hear about a ‘secondary market‘ and often it is related to bonds, in particular the likes of TBills (Tbills are US Government bonds that run less than 12 months, TNotes on the other hand run longer than a year). What this means is that there is a market which operates outside of the primary market – where the transaction first takes place. In the treasury realm (the likes of Tbills) the primary market is from the Government to the buyer – either institutional or private – and the secondary market is between (for instance) one private individual and another. Why does it exist? Simply because the maturity date on the bond may not suit the holder, so private individual A will sell to B rather than wait until the time the bond matures.

A Secondary market exists in many other areas too, one example is that of Life Assurance. There are companies …

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The secondary insurance market 'settlements'

Often you hear about a ‘secondary market‘ and often it is related to bonds, in particular the likes of TBills (Tbills are US Government bonds that run less than 12 months, TNotes on the other hand run longer than a year). What this means is that there is a market which operates outside of the primary market – where the transaction first takes place. In the treasury realm (the likes of Tbills) the primary market is from the Government to the buyer – either institutional or private – and the secondary market is between (for instance) one private individual and another. Why does it exist? Simply because the maturity date on the bond may not suit the holder, so private individual A will sell to B rather than wait until the time the bond matures.

A Secondary market exists in many other areas too, one example is that of Life Assurance. There are companies …

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Some past market performance figures

Naturally past economic cycles don’t tell us exactly what will happen in the future, but as Mark Twain once said ‘history doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme’. And for that reason it is worth looking at some key figures from the past, showing that often the gains in bull markets are all found at the cusp of a bear market.

The stock market generally reacts before consumers and the real economy do and equally it will generally see recovery before them as well. Taking a view of the 20th century markets we can see the following:

In the recession of 1926 to 1927 the market increased by 41%. The years of 1933 to 1937 saw some of the most impressive gains ever in the S&P 500. The eight month recession of 1945 saw markets rise 19.5%, the eleven month recession of 1948-49 saw the markets go up 15.2%. Again in 1953-1954 the ten month recession ended with a market that rose 24.2%.

Any reader will note that much of these ‘gains’ did …

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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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