You Know It’s a Tough Market When Bernanke Can’t Refinance

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said, “I think it’s entirely possible” that lenders “may have gone a little bit too far on mortgage credit conditions.” Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Ben S. Bernanke said the mortgage market is so tight that even he is having a hard time refinancing his own home loan.

The former Federal Reserve chairman, speaking at a conference in Chicago yesterday, told moderator Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics Inc. -- “just between the two of us” -- that “I recently tried to refinance my mortgage and I was unsuccessful in doing so.”

When the audience laughed, Bernanke said, “I’m not making that up.”

“I think it’s entirely possible” that lenders “may have gone a little bit too far on mortgage credit conditions,” he said.

Bernanke, addressing a conference of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care in Chicago yesterday, said that the first-time home buyer market is “not what it should be” as the economy in general strengthens.

“The housing area is one area where regulation has not yet got it right,” Bernanke said. “I think the tightness of mortgage credit, lending is still probably excessive.”

Refinanced Twice

Bernanke already has refinanced twice. When the former Fed chair and his wife Anna bought their Capitol Hill rowhouse in May 2004, they took out two loans, according to Washington, D.C., land records.

The first was an adjustable-rate mortgage of $671,200 with a starting rate of 4.125 percent. The 5-year ARM was capped at 10.125 percent. The second was a fixed-rate loan of $83,900.

They refinanced the property in October 2009, after the ARM was scheduled to start adjusting, taking out a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage of $685,385 and paying off both earlier loans. They refinanced again on Sept. 26, 2011, taking out a $672,000, 30-year, fixed-rate loan at 4.25 percent.

Average fixed rates on 30-year loans inched down to 4.19 percent from 4.2 percent for the week ending Oct. 2, according to data from Freddie Mac. A year ago they were 4.22 percent. Fixed rates for 15-year mortgages averaged 3.36 percent this week.

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