For a guy who has thrown around trillions of dollars, Ben Bernanke was probably more surprised than anyone who has been turned down for a refinance in recent years – hat tip to Mark, Joe, and daytrip who sent this in:


Here’s a full explanation:


Business media are having a lot of fun today over a throw-away remark Ben Bernanke made yesterday.  In a question and answer session with Moody Analytics economist Mark Zandi, the former Federal Reserve chair said he was having a little personal trouble in the financial markets.  “I recently tried to refinance my mortgage,” he said, “and I was unsuccessful in doing so.”

According to multiple reports, when the audience laughed Bernanke insisted he was not making it up.

“Overregulation and the fear of buybacks makes it difficult to make a common sense loan, ” notes Geoff Allison, a Senior Loan Officer at Blue Skye Lending.

“While there may have been a rhetorical goal underlying the comment, it’s not hard to believe based on the current state of lending guidelines.  A recent change to what is essentially a commission-based job with no recent history of working on commission would prevent anyone from getting a conforming loan,” says Mortgage News Daily’s Matt Graham.  “Even though there are products that he could qualify for, they don’t carry the same low rates as the more stringent programs.”

Bernanke made the remark in an appearance before a conference hosted by the National Investment Center for Senior Housing and Care.  Zandi confirmed the remark to CNNMoney and said, “It highlights how tight credit is for residential mortgage loans.  This is the key constraint on the housing recovery.”

Lending standards were tightened by banks and regulators in response to the rapid deflation of the housing bubble and, according to Bloomberg, Bernanke said, “I think it’s entirely possible” that lenders “may have gone a little bit too far on mortgage credit conditions.”  He acknowledged that the first-time homebuyer market is not where is should be as the economy in general strengthens.  “The housing area is one area where regulation has not yet got it right.”

This is old news for market participants.

Frank Hanna, an Originator at Gateway Funding sums it up “In order to truly help the housing market and ultimately the economy we  will need to see lending regulations strike a better balance between the current defensive underwriting posture and common sense.”

Bloomberg headlined its report, “You want proof that it’s tough to get a mortgage? While CNN went so far as to underwrite Bernanke’s loan.  They found that he bought his Washington, DC home in 2004, paying $839,000 and it is assessed today at $880,700 although Zillow puts its market value about $80,000 higher.  His $200K salary as Fed Chair is history but he commands as much as $250,000 per speech, consults at the Brookings Institution, and his last financial disclosure put his assets in the $1 million to $2 million range (putting him way down the list of wealthy Fed Board members.)

What we don’t know is whether Bernanke or Zandi made any real news yesterday.

Nick at the WSJ confirmed Ben’s approximate loan amount on twitter:


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