Analysts have tried to parcel out whether QE3 will really help the economy. I’ve done the same thing myself. The way almost everyone looks at this is about the impact on housing, specifically mortgage prices. But mortgage rates haven’t changed at all since the announcement of QE3, and if the Fed was trying to influence the expectations channel, the impact really should have been that immediate.
Then again, rates didn’t rise, either. It could be that QE3 arrested a trend toward increasing mortgage financing costs. But more likely, banks are taking the profits out of the eased cost of mortgage financing for themselves:
The banks are choosing not to reduce mortgage rates further. One reason: By keeping the rates elevated, they are able to earn much larger profits when they sell the mortgages into the bond market. If the level of profits on those sales stayed at recent average levels, borrowers might, for instance, pay $30,000 less in interest payments on a $300,000 mortgage, according to a recent New York Times analysis.
The fact that banks haven’t prepped for a backlog of mortgage applications, meaning that the benefits of QE3 cannot possibly get to customers in a reasonable amount of time, leads us more toward this conclusion. Banks have no problem securing cheap backstopping of mortgages, but they don’t have to channel those savings into the mortgages they sell. It’s a form of collusion, because nobody else has dropped their rates to gather the lion’s share of the business. And nobody can actually get a loan to move, either, because that would require hiring staff. This way, banks can benefit from lower rates for themselves on one side and higher rates for customers on the other. The arbitrage between those two prices equals massive profits.
Let me add another postulate to all this. When you have this delay in financing, the beneficiaries are those who have the working capital to purchase in cash. Furthermore, the cheap market for foreclosures invites groups who can accumulate capital to come in and scoop up the housing stock. This is what we’re seeing all over the country – institutional investors buying up foreclosed properties to rent out in the short term and sell at a profit in the longer term. They are securing very large amounts of capital to pull this off.
Waypoint Real Estate Group LLC, a major investor in U.S. foreclosed homes, has secured a $65 million loan from Citigroup Inc. to help add to its portfolio of properties, according to people familiar with the matter.
Bankers and investors said the debt-financing deal is a milestone for the burgeoning business of renting out houses that were previously in foreclosure.
Waypoint, an Oakland, Calif., investment firm, is working with Citigroup on a bigger, longer-term financing deal that is expected to close in the coming weeks, the people said.
Investors have spent billions of dollars in recent months snapping up foreclosed homes, betting they will profit from the rental income the properties produce.
This is the next bubble, happening right here, and QE3 facilitates it. Investment firms can scoop up cheap housing stock and flip it into rentals. There’s also talk of securitizing the rental income streams, which really reinflates the bubble machine. Meanwhile the character of neighborhoods completely changes, homeowners get nudged out for properties by the investors, the phenomenon of absentee slumlord-ism takes hold, and power relationships change when one company owns a substantial amount of the housing stock in a city.
What’s happening in housing right now should absolutely terrify people. The forces that are being coordinated to show positive statistics at the macro level are also creating a dangerous environment for the future.