You Don’t know What You Got Till It’s Gone

All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating, and mediocrity is easy. Stay away from easy.  -Scott Alexander

It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. -Aung San Suu Kyi

 
Monday, Feb. 24, 2013 started out as a typical day for me. I woke up at 7:30, made toast and began calling my business partners. I like to call them before they get into the office on Monday to ask how their weekend went and see what they have coming up in the days ahead. It’s something I have found to be beneficial because it shows them I am up early and that I actually care about them outside of the business we do together. Once I ate breakfast and went through my phone calls, I showered and got ready to head into the office. During this time, I was beginning to wonder why I hadn’t gotten any morning emails — not just from the partners who promised to email but also the typical emails I get every weekday morning. I thought maybe my wireless Internet was down or that the phone update I did the previous night had something to do with it.

Still, I hit the highway and headed into the office. Typically on Monday, the office has the usual morning buzz: phones ringing, keyboards clicking and colleagues saying “good morning.” On this particular Monday morning, that buzz was nowhere to be found. Then the receptionist said, “The phones, Internet and email are all down, and we don’t know when they are coming back on.” It was 9:30 a.m. When servers are down at a financing company, it’s devastating, to say the least. Aside from phones and email, we also rely on the daily numbers from the stock market and bond market. Those essential numbers aren’t the same figures that can be found on CNBC, CNN or Fox News — they are from markets usually only finance experts see, and they come to our special internal server. When the Internet is down, our phone and email don’t work and neither does that server. We didn’t realize how much we relied on it until we had no access. The server didn’t come back on until 4:30 p.m., when the 25 emails I had stuck in the Matrix finally came through, and office buzz returned.

That night, I began to think about what had happened during the day. We were stuck in limbo — there was nothing any of us could do to fix what was happening. Something we depended on but paid no attention to had suddenly broken and froze us in time. I then thought about my last blog post on Mel Watt and how he alone is in charge of one of the biggest variables in our American economy. Don’t get me wrong: Mel Watt does have his constituents who help him make decisions and policies, but at the end of the day, it’s Mel Watt’s decision.

Mel Watt, while appointed by President Obama, is no way the same. What I mean by this is that the president cannot make end-all, be-all decisions (except in a time of war) without Congress, the Senate or the American public voting on it. Mel Watt is under no political control; his decisions on how the FHFA functions are final. I’m not saying that his best interest isn’t in the safety of the American economy or that he’s not a smart individual — the president would not have appointed him if he wasn’t. My point is that given the power Mel Watt has, are you willing to continue not paying attention? What happens if he develops a political agenda regarding the FHFA, and the system essentially breaks?

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measuring stick of economic growth; it calculates the total number of goods and services sold annually. GDP is tracked on a quarterly basis. Roughly speaking, housing contributes 2.2 percent of the country’s GDP, which accounts for almost $334 billion. This housing contribution also includes new construction: each new single-family detached home supports 3.05 jobs, and each new multifamily unit supports 1.16 jobs. Based on these multipliers and the latest available data on housing stats prepared by the U.S. Census Bureau, the current amount of construction is supporting an estimated 1.5 million jobs (Bipartisan Policy Center). Ninety percent of this housing is insured by Fannie and Freddie, who are under the conservatorship of the FHFA, which has one man in charge: Mel Watt. Last time I checked, this country is coming out of a recession with a current unemployment rate of 6.6 percent; 1.5 million jobs is a lot, given the facts.

These numbers aren’t meant to strike fear — they are merely facts. I, for one, am proud that America has product that contributes to our GDP and isn’t outsourced. This is a domestic good that we as an economy buy into and support. The more we contribute to housing, the more goes back into our economy — house cleaning, construction workers, contractors, loan originators, painters, lawn companies, pest companies (all goods and services). I use Mel Watt as my example because it’s a name you can easily Google to learn more. It’s an important name to know because he is in control of a very powerful entity that is crucial to our economy. We rely on our American economy, and we cannot continue to ignore it because it’s confusing. What I can promise is that this economy will prosper and it will fall again — any history book can tell you that.

I was stuck in limbo on Monday after my server crashed because we were not aware of its power regarding email, phone and Internet. Let’s not make that mistake when it comes to knowing what and who contributes to our American economy. The finger pointing following the 2007 financial meltdown should suffice as a good example. If the FHFA is just as important as Congress, the Senate and the Federal Reserve, why is there an uproar to take FHFA right under its feet by ridding Fannie and Freddie? Would this be good or bad for our economy? What’s so good about Fannie and Freddie? What do they actually do? In the next installment of the Mortgage Story by Victor B.R., I will tell you why some caucuses want Fannie and Freddie out, why they have been around so long and why they are going to be around for a while.

Frank Underwood has some thoughts about being left in the dark…

Thanks for reading,

The Mortgage Story By Victor Brown-Roberson

Questions, Comments, down below or press the bubble up top

 

No One Man Should Have All That Power?

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.                                                                                                                                                 -Abraham Lincoln

 
Kanye West isn’t right about a lot but is he right when said:                                               “No one man should have all that power” ?

The most powerful man in the world might not be who you think it is.

Before the most recent State of the Union address, I began to think about how the president was not only addressing the United States — he was essentially addressing the world. I say this because Americans aren’t the only ones who have a vested interest in our country; many foreign economies also depend on the prosperity of America. So, when it’s said that the President of the United States is the “most powerful man in the world,” it seems to be true. Yet there is a very close second, in my opinion, and it’s probably a man many of you haven’t heard of. His name is Mel Watt, the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). If you’re not familiar with the FHFA, it’s an independent, government-sponsored enterprise that regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks. The FHFA was established in 2008 under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act in reaction to the financial meltdown that led the American economy into recession. So, why is this a big deal?

Fannie Mae was created during the Great Depression as part of FDR’s New Deal. Its purpose was to help the mortgage market by securitizing mortgages with federal money. This is where the term “mortgage-backed securities” comes from. A mortgage-backed security allows lenders to put more of their assets into lending. That way, instead of the lender relying on local banks for money, the lender can issue more loans simply by buying FHA-insured mortgage. In turn, this increases the number of lenders in the market. The more lenders in the market, the more competitive the market will be, which helps the borrower (you) in the long run.

Fannie Mae dominated the secondary mortgage market until Freddie Mac was created in competition to generate a more efficient market. After the pitfalls of the 1980s, Fannie and Freddie were pressured by the federal government to participate in the financing of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families. The government’s goal was to have both of these GSEs (government-sponsored enterprise) purchase low- to moderate-income mortgages at 30 percent each. Towards the end of the 1990s, pressure from the secondary market to ease credit requirements on these mortgage loans created a lending practice that is now known as the subprime market.

What does this mean?

This subprime market meant a wiliness to securitize risky loans. Let’s remember that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are private entities sponsored by the government, so they do have shareholders to please. Money was to be made with lower underwriting standards, so pressure from shareholders led Fannie and Freddie to lower those standards. This allowed banks to change the type of mortgage products they loaned to borrowers. Mortgage products such as traditional fixed rate were traded in for nontraditional, non-amortizing ARMs and overall riskier loans. Banks did this because these loans were backed by insurance that Fannie and Freddie would pay back.

We know how the rest of the story goes: An oversupply of underpriced mortgages welcomed subprime borrowers who eventually defaulted. Then came foreclosures, then came bailout, then came recession. FHFA estimated that in 2010, it cost $360 billion to bail out Freddie and Fannie. So, what does this mean on a global scale? In 2008, Fannie and Freddie were officially put into conservatorship, allowing the U.S. Treasury to advance funds to them. This increased the national debt to $800 billion. China owns about $1.37 trillion dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds — many of which include mortgage bonds. A defaulting of Freddie and Fannie would result in a massive global economic disaster.

By now, I hope it’s clear that Fannie and Freddie play a significant role in our American and global economies. These GSEs are under the power of the FHFA, which is an independent federal agency that, although constitutionally part of the executive branch, is independent of presidential control. This agency, whose rules have the power of federal law, is run by one man: Mel Watt. Check out the next installment of the Mortgage Story by Victor B.R to learn why you should pay more attention to whom I consider to be one of the most powerful men in the world.

These two are very close 3rd!

Thanks for reading,

The Mortgage Story By Victor Brown-Roberson

Questions, Comments, down below or press the bubble up top

 

2014 Commitment not resolution

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language                                                        And next year’s words await another voice.”    ― T.S. EliotFour Quartets

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” — Oprah Winfrey

I’m not a huge Star Wars fanatic, but I do like the movies. I must admit, Yoda got it right: We should stop trying and just do it. We have to make a commitment to ourselves that we are going to do what we say we’re going to do and not worry about failure. When we say we’re going to “try,” failure already exists in our minds and eventually manifests into reality. When you choose to just do something, the chances of success are greater. A resolution is a way of saying, “I will try to do something I am not accustomed to,” and we all know what happens to resolutions. So instead of making a resolution, make a commitment because it’s like making a promise to yourself, and no one wants to break that.

I love the fact that my company doesn’t have a voicemail service. The owner, Joseph Bayer, Sr., doesn’t believe in people talking to machines. When you call First Integrity Mortgage Services, our receptionist will pick up and transfer the call to the person you are trying to reach. If that person isn’t available, she will come back on the line, offer that person’s cellphone number and take down your name and preferred phone number. To me, that is exceptional customer service. When it comes to your personal investments, you shouldn’t have to settle for talking to a machine. To all my young professionals — if you are going to make some sort of New Year’s resolution, it should be: I will answer my phone, I will follow up, and I will be positive. These are things that you may think you do already; if that is the case, then your New Year’s resolution is to do all those things better. Following up with people is huge! Even if it’s a simple 30-second conversation, people appreciate it because it lets them know that at some point during your busy day, you thought about them and decided to call.

Also, stop referring to your customers as “clients.” That term drives me nuts because it makes it sound as if the person is just a number. If you constantly refer to someone as your client, then trust me, you are treating him or her as such. People can tell whether you’re doing something genuine or doing something out of muscle memory. So do yourself a favor, and stop treating your business relationships as clients. It all goes back to what we learned in elementary school: Treat others as you would like to be treated. You know what good customer service looks like, and you also know when someone is being genuine. Take time to check yourself every once and awhile, recognize if you’re becoming a robot, take responsibility for your actions, change and adjust, but most importantly, be kind, flexible, and keep a smile on your face in 2014.

Happy New Year and cheers to those who made into work today even though they’re “tired”

Thanks for reading,

The Mortgage Story By Victor Brown-Roberson

A Simple Thank You

If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.
Frank A. Clark

I’ve never seen a corporate parking lot so empty! I’m sure by the time I leave the office today my car will be the only one left. This post won’t offer too much written content, my new years eve post will make up the difference. I usually post funny videos that in someway align with the points I try to convey in my posts. Today though, the video isn’t from; a movie,a cartoon, or something random on the internet.Today’s video, simply is from me

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Thanks for reading,

The Mortgage Story By Victor Brown-Roberson

Yea Yea! I heard about that on the news last night… I think?

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”

― Albert Einstein

Sometimes I question myself and this blog: Why am I doing this? Do people get what I’m trying to say? Am I being too analytical? Am I writing about what people want to learn? Am I making this interesting? But what I have come to realize over the past few weeks is that this blog serves a purpose, which is to keep my friends, family and colleagues informed about an industry that is undoubtedly the backbone of the American economy.

I’ve noticed that the general public often ignores the financial industry unless some sort of catastrophic event occurs. When such an event is explained on TV, there is usually bias associated with it. If you’re watching a big cable news network, the information they are providing is somewhat skewed because at the end of the day, they need their bills paid by shareholders. To keep those shareholders happy, they must deliver the news they want to hear. On the other hand, your favorite local news channel simply does not have enough time to divulge half the news the big cable networks can give you. So, for the average American, watching the news to stay informed on financial analysis just isn’t a priority and isn’t worth the confusion.

Here is where this blog comes into play: My job is to provide unbiased, informative finance news you need to know, brought to you in a way that is fresh, easy to read and easy to understand. Heading into 2014, there are things you need to know, but in order for you to understand the terms, names and acronyms I’m going to use in the next few blog posts, I will need to explain them. They won’t be textbook verbiage; rather, they will be words and names that you probably have heard but never quite understood where they came from or what they mean. These next few blog posts will be short but precise, and I will do my best to make them easy to understand. Join me in this adventure of financial enlightenment.

Thanks for reading,

The Mortgage Story By Victor Brown-Roberson

Questions, Comments, down below or press the bubble up top

I gotta question, He gotta question, everybody got questions…

Remember in class, when you had a question but refused to raise your hand? Now that you are an adult,more times than none you still have a bunch of questions that you refuse to ask out loud. Just like in class eventually someone asked,and got an answer to the exact question you had. Everyday we struggle with financial questions that we feel that are only specific to us. We type into Google and find a million links to answer that very “specific” question. Well over the last few years, I have saved some links to websites that have helped me with my very own questions I felt only pertained to me. Come to find out these websites led to awesome  Q&A forms that introduced me to many other folks out there with the same questions. So today I present you all with some of those great links, in hope they will help answers some of your questions.

1.) http://www.moneyunder30.com/

This awesome website, for many of us 20 somethings. From credit card advice, to moving out of your parents home, to how much should I put into my 401K. They have the answers

2.) http://www.careerealism.com/

Great source for career advice, nothing goes untouched here.

3.) http://www.lumosity.com

Feel like you have been getting dumber since your last college class?, great reboot

4.) http://www.howstuffworks.com/

No such thing as a stupid question, great for dinner talk

5.) http://www.ted.com/

Seriously,just go..

6.) http://www.stufftoblowyourmind.com/

Honestly, the url says enough

7.) http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/

A good to impress some folks, or just know way too much info

8.) http://www.buzzfeed.com/

Can send you down memory lane from time to time

9.) http://wordpress.com/

Where all this got started, be amazed what you can write about

10.) http://www.lifehack.org/

Again another site, to help you seem smarter

This is ,10 websites I think are awesome and that you will enjoy. Forward and share any websites you all think are awesome as well. I leave you with a classic video

Thanks for reading,

The Mortgage Story By Victor Brown-Roberson

Questions, Comments, down below or press the bubble up top