What's in Store for Fannie and Freddie?

November 12, 2012

There were more questions raised than answers provided about the future of government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their continued role in the secondary mortgage market at the Regulatory Issues Forum Friday during the 2012 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando.

Today, the GSEs have too much market share, said Timothy J. Mayopoulos, Fannie Mae president and CEO, who spoke at the session. However, as he pointed out, "More than four years after the financial crisis, we see little private capital available to meet the demand for single-family housing."

Lenders are very reluctant to engage in home loans now because of concerns such as potential repurchase requests and regulatory uncertainty. Mayopoulos acknowledged that more transparency is needed around these issues to coax private capital back into mortgage lending.

Mayopoulos and Dr. Wanda DeLeo, deputy director of the FHFA—which currently holds Fannie and Freddie in conservatorship—and another presenter at the forum, said there’s a broad consensus about what needs to be accomplished over the next few years with respect to the GSEs. A new secondary mortgage market infrastructure needs to be created, the GSEs’ share of the market needs to be reduced, and home owners in distress need to be helped, they explained.

To that last point, Fannie continues to explore new ways to assist borrowers, Mayopoulos said. For instance, to speed up short sales, his organization recently instituted a 60-day deadline for short-sale decisions from lenders. Fannie also waives documentation for hardship in some cases.

However, an agreement on a specific plan for creating a new secondary mortgage market and shrinking the GSEs’ share of home loans has not been reached. Mayopoulos demurred on a question about whether Fannie and Freddie would eventually be phased out and how that might impact mortgage lending.

"We're in a time when we have to have a debate about what the secondary mortgage market is going to look like, but I'm going to leave that debate to the policymakers," he said.

Still, whatever happens to Fannie and Freddie and the secondary mortgage market, Mayopoulos expressed a hope that the valuable services those institutions deliver—such as setting standards and making home ownership more accessible for millions of Americans—would be integral to whatever system replaces them.

"This system should not be too big to fail, but it should be big enough to matter," he said.

—Brian Summerfield, REALTOR® Magazine