Like we really needed evidence of this glaring magnitude, that new rules in banking have shut some of the wrong people out of housing's game of borrowing money to pay for homes.
But here it was, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve and a new employee of the Brookings Institution Ben Bernanke got turned down in an attempt to refinance his mortgage loan on a home he and his wife have on Capitol Hill.
Bernanke's key "take-away" sound bite: “I think it’s entirely possible” that lenders “may have gone a little bit too far on mortgage credit conditions,” he said.
So, mortgage credit conditions, it is now more persuasively understood, are inimical to potential borrowers who would and could repay their loans, and therefore, it follows that mortgage credit conditions can be said to be suppressing a full housing recovery right now.
They are, unless Congress's good twin decides to do a lick of work or unless the Obama Administration is bold enough to defy the legislative branch altogether and work with regulators in the margins of executive privilege, what they are.
Mortgage credit conditions are externalities that home builders may wish were different, but today's particular challenges for home builders don't leave a lot of margin for wishes.
Bernanke's case notwithstanding--would you like to be the loan officer right now who actually said no on a middling six-figure loan refin to a Fed Chairman?--the incident points up a critically important truth, especially as home building organizations try to gain visibility and develop budget strategies for 2015.
There are things we don't and can't control.
A fact that goes along with that one is this. Some fair number of the forces we cannot control are adverse.
I happened to read a moving piece of long-form journalism in a style one-time New York Herald Tribune features editor Clay Felker encouraged Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote and Hunter S. Thompson to practice in the 1960s. The story has two subjects, one of them Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux.
Maddux, it was known, fought demons that affected his control of the strike zone. He beat those demons; his career is testimony to that. Here's what Maddux had to say of his attitude about those demons after working with psychological guru Harvey Dorfman:
"I can control the pitches I make, how I handle my mechanics, how I control my frame of mind. It benefited me most...when I realized that I can't control what happens outside of my pitching,"
This past week, BUILDER hosted its first Builder Connections event in Dallas, connecting the purchasing strategists and tacticians for 65,000 home-completions worth of home builders (in the past 12 months), with counterparts and partners on the supplier/manufacturer side. I was honored to join in a panel discussion with Taylor Morrison Homes director of corporate purchasing Jeff Allgood, and Brad Conlon, vice president of national accounts for D.R.Horton.
To start the conversation, we spent a couple of minutes to take stock of the vagaries, the headwinds, the tailwinds, the good, the bad, and the ugly of the housing dynamic right now, and I asked Brad for his thoughts as a valued member of his organization's strategic team, which aims to put people of many different financial means into D.R. Horton homes and communities that feel like they're at least a step into the American Dream.
Brad's unhesitating reply, paraphrased here, was, "there are a lot of things going on in the global environment and domestically that we, as builders, have no control of right now, and we can't even know how they're going to turn out. All we can do in our position is focus on operational excellence in everything we can control, and manage for the outcomes we're looking for, no matter what's happening that we cannot control."