Editorial

The Rise and Fall of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
by Henry S. Harrison

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Last June, I answered an “Ask Henry” question from a reader: “When will the residential real estate recession end?” My answer was that I thought that it would end in the term of whoever was elected President in November 2016. Between June and when Barack Obama was reelected President, the news media was full of press releases and commentator predictions that the country was well on its way to a real estate recovery.


Real Estate Appraisers — whose livelihood is closely tied to the fate of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — as a group seem to be ignoring how the future of these two organizations will affect their businesses. The latest figures show that these two giants are now guaranteeing about 90% of all the single family home mortgages in the US.

On December 29, 2000, the price of Fannie Mae stock hit an all-time high of $86.75 per share. Eleven years later, it hit rock bottom at a low of $0.20 per share. As of September 18, 2013, it closed at $1.17 per share. So the question remains, why is it trading at all, given the government takeover?

The answer is there are a number of people and hedge funds who believe that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will survive the present governmental conservatorship and will once again become publicly traded companies. What makes this unlikely, in my opinion, is that the government created a new government senior preferred shares which placed the common stock last in line to receive any assets of the company that remain if and when the conservatorship is terminated. If you are looking for a very long shot investment, Fannie Mae stock should be considered. Your stock broker should be able to tell you how to do this. However, this is not a recommendation.

Most appraisers know that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in trouble. But who they are and what they have done politically to prompt the federal government to announce it is standing by with a possible multibillion-dollar bailout remains unknown to most.

Here is their history.

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