Aides said they would propose new federal standards for mortgage brokers
who issued many unsuitable loans and are largely regulated by state officials.
They are considering proposals to have the S.E.C. become more involved in
supervising the underwriting standards of securities that are backed by
The key word, the one I made in all caps, is BROKER. There are two types of niches in mortgages, wholesale and retail. Wholesale mortgages are done by banks and mortgage companies but a mortgage broker is used to bring them the borrower. The mortgage broker has the ability to choose from a universe of bank, and so the logic is that with a good mortgage broker borrowers always get the best deal.
In retail, the borrower goes through the bank directly. While this means the borrower can only choose one bank, this eliminates the need for the broker, the middleman, and thus saves on fees.
For many years, it was the broker that usually dominated the industry. Banks liked the convenience of having borrowers brought to them and thus often gave better rates wholesale than retail.
Now, in the nearly seven years in the business I have seen incremental inconveniences done to mortgage brokers. Initally, there was no barrier. I started and as soon as I had a loan, I was making money. Then, the state began charging a yearly licensing fee. Then, the state made licensing more difficult. It included testing and a background check along with a yearly fee. I also saw the state of Illinois, my home state, very disorganized in the process. Often, brokers could work for weeks and months well past when they needed to have licensing done. That's because the state had little apparatus to quickly find out if someone was operating without a proper license.
Now, the Obama administration wants to add their own licensing procedures on top of the state's procedure. The first observation is that if the state of Illinois had trouble tracking down brokers you can imagine how well the federal government will do with several million mortgage brokers nationwide. Ultimately, what all of this will eventually do is drive most business from wholesale to retail. The more difficult wholesale brokering will be, the more banks will simply focus on retail banking.
Again, the key word is BROKER. If you work for a bank, you are a mortgage BANKER. You will notice that President Obama is not talking about tightening restrictions against mortgage BANKERS. As such, what all of this new regulation will really do is give more of a competitive advantage to retail. Now, already, in the last few months, Bank of America, Chase, and WAMU, have all closed wholesale operations and they only do loans retail. If the federal restrictions will be tight enough, it will mean that wholesale won't be worth it for most banks. Many other banks will follow in the footsteps of Bank of America, Chase and WAMU.
So, what will happen? All of these mortgage brokers that President Obama wants to oversee will simply move to retail where there is no oversight. A large enough bank can have its own portfolio of loans that will rival that of a broker that can choose from a menu of banks. As such, there is often little difference between the two. If the advantage is to work in retail, that's where all of these brokers will work. As such, while the Obama administration will be touting how they provided more oversight to mortgage brokers, in reality, what they will have done is drive mortgage broker to where there is no oversight, in mortgage banking. Not only would such a move not accomplish anything as far as oversight, but it will limit competition. If retail has no wholesale competition, it's much easier to charge higher rates. A borrower would actually have to become the broker in order to shop. They would literally have to call to every bank themselves to get a rate. That's in fact why they hire a broker. Without a broker, you are liable to see all the retail shops increase their rates slightly because the competition will now be limited.