Felix Salmon

Mortgage refinance doesn’t belong in the settlement talks

October 18, 2011

The WSJ has the latest mortgage-settlement trial balloon, and it’s pretty weak tea: under the terms of the deal, if (a) you’re underwater on your mortgage, and (b) you’re current on your mortgage payments, and (c) your mortgage is owned by the bank outright, rather than having been securitized, then you would be given the opportunity to refinance your mortgage at prevailing market rates.

Two mortgage plans

October 14, 2011

With the enormity of the jobs crisis looming over the 2012 presidential election, it’s worth being reminded every so often that there’s a huge housing crisis in this country as well. And so it’s worth keeping an eye on new ideas there.

Why won’t Frannie do principal reductions?

October 6, 2011

Negative equity has reached epidemic status across the united states — and especially in the sand states of Arizona and Nevada, where more than half of all homes with mortgages are  underwater. But give the state of Arizona, at least, a lot of credit for biting the bullet and trying to do what needs to be done:

Annals of government toothlessness, HAMP edition

October 4, 2011

ProPublica’s Paul Kiel has a fantastic story today about the way in which the government has proved utterly toothless with regard to auditing its mortgage-modification programs, never mind publicizing or enforcing whatever violations it did manage to find. HAMP, it turns out, is a perfect example of what happens when the government mandates change without enforcing it: huge amounts of money get spent, to little or no lasting effect. Neil Barofsky provides the nut quote:

How to lose your debt without losing your health

October 3, 2011

Deleveraging is painful. It’s so painful, indeed, that it can actually be lethal:

The negative correlation between obesity and indebtedness

October 2, 2011

Michael Lewis says something very odd in his big piece on California and the phenomenon of overconsumption:

Why mortgage servicing won’t get fixed

September 21, 2011

Back in November, Treasury’s Michael Barr set a clock ticking, with respect to mortgage-servicing reform.

Why we’re in the dark about the mortgage market

September 19, 2011

By Ryan McCarthy

We have a severe shortage of information about a $10.5 trillion market.

Jesse Eisinger has a great column at ProPublica about just how inscrutable bank data is — if you haven’t read it, you should. A short summary: even the simplest of big bank statements amount to “guesswork,” Eisinger writes.

How to play the eurozone break-up, second-home edition

September 19, 2011

The lengths to which I’ll go for my readers: I’m currently sitting poolside in an Algarve villa, enjoying a perfect climate and gorgeous view of the Atlantic, and wondering if this could be one of the best ways for investors to play a possible eurozone collapse.