Jumbo Loans and White Elephants: Will the Pace Pick Up?

According to Wikipedia, the definition for a white elephant is “a valuable possession which the owner cannot dispose of, but whose cost (particularly of upkeep) exceeds its usefulness.” Hmmm. Sounds like some of the higher priced homes they hear may be sitting on the market a little bit longer than usual. According to the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors (KAAR), the number of homes valued at $500K+ which sold in May 2008 was 34. But there were 205 new listings.

Ok, so I have to give you a little bit of history about the origin of the phrase white elephant. It has nothing to do with mortgage lending, but it’s a good information nugget to know. Per Wikipedia (yes, again), in the tales from the Buddhist scriptures, Buddha’s father dreamt of a white elephant giving her a lotus flower on the eve of Buddha’s birth. Thus, in Southeast Asia, it became a status symbol to own a white elephant (basically a requirement if you were some type of royalty). However, due to being sacred and all, the owner couldn’t have the white elephant actually do any work or labor to offset its keep. Ever wonder how much food an elephant can consume a day? Think of the tidy up after it eats! You not only get to feed the beast constantly, but you also have nothing to show for it when you’re done. You get the picture.

So, my analogy of there being a few white elephants in the real estate market right now is due in part to the jumbo rates not being so hot as of late. Loans below $417,000 are sold into mortgage backed securities. But jumbo loans are sold into private backed securities. and unfortunately due to the debacle in the mortgage industry that occurred in markets such as Florida, Nevada and new york (where a lot of loan sizes are above $417K), there’s not a great appetite for the jumbo loan. It’s kind of like jumbo loans are liver and spinach on the menu. A few people will buy that stuff, but it’s not as popular as the cheeseburger.

So what to do if you need a jumbo loan? Make sure you work with a lender who knows their stuff and can present you with options. Adjustable rate mortgages (ARM) may suit your needs as long as they are fixed for a decent amount of time and won’t paint you into a corner. An ARM may buy you time to refinance at a later date when the market calms down. You might also be able to wrangle a first and a second so the first loan fints under the conforming loan size umbrella and the second part of your financing is at a smaller loan amount with a higher interest rate. be smart and make sure your lender is smart. and if you’re selling your home, sit tight. These homes are moving, however it might be at an elephant’s pace. Don’t fret, though. An elephant’s top speed can reach 25 mph.


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