That the recession has been over officially for more than a year is of little solace to downtrodden mortgage brokers. But a Fannie Mae economist said that if loan jockeys are patient, things will get better.

Speaking to a gathering of brokers meeting in Las Vegas, Orawin Velz, director of economics and the person responsible for forecasting at Fannie Mae, said consumers should be "ready to spend again" by the second half of 2011.

"They can't hunker down for too much longer," Velz said of consumers who have yet to open their pocketbooks after suffering through the worst recession in decades. "So have patience. By the second half, you will feel a lot better."

Consumer spending is the biggest driver of economic growth, the Fannie Mae economist explained at the National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB) West conference.

"What consumers do largely determines what kind of recovery you have," she said. "But they're not in the mood to spend very much, so they are saving more and consuming less."

Modest job gains haven't been enough to get consumers off dead center. And neither has a run of record low interest rates. But jobs are so important that interest rates could be at zero and it wouldn't be enough to move the market, Velz said.

However, the trend for jobs is definitely up, she added. And with businesses "loaded" with cash, they're "going to have to start hiring soon."

The economist believes even a modest pick up in job growth will result in a similar pick up in housing sales. "What happens in the labor market pretty much outlines what happens in the housing market," she said.

Fannie Mae is pointing for a "gradual housing recovery" next. Nevertheless, Velz said originations will decline from $1.5 trillion this year to $1.2 trillion in 2011. That's somewhat more optimistic than the Mortgage Bankers Association, which is now forecasting a dip in loan production to under $1 trillion. In contrast, in 2003, lenders generated almost $4 trillion in new mortgages.

Meanwhile, Freddie Mac economist sees growth in second half of 2011. The economic recovery should accelerate gradually throughout 2011, with the second half of the year exhibiting more growth and job creation than the early part, according to Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft.

Economic drivers including income growth, the unemployment rate and inflation affect housing and mortgage market performance. Next year, fiscal policy will support aggregate demand for goods and services and the accommodative monetary policy will continue to provide low interest rates and ample liquidity to capital markets, Nothaft wrote in commentary Freddie Mac published Monday.

Nothaft said five forces will characterize the 2011 housing and mortgage markets—low mortgage rates, house price recovery, homebuyer affordability, fewer mortgage originations and lower delinquency rates.

While some rise in fixed-rates is expected, 30-year fixed-rate loans are likely to remain below 5% throughout the year, and initial rates on 5/1 hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages will likely remain below 4% in 2011, he wrote.

National housing prices will experience the typical softness experienced in the autumn and winter months and local markets with large real estate owned inventories will see continued declines in 2011. But Nothaft said price indices will bottom out by mid-year and begin moderate and sustained growth from there.

The combination of low rates and prices means affordability will remain at all-time highs, which will lead to more home sales next year than in 2010. But after this year’s boom in refinance activity, total mortgage originations will be down in 2011, Nothaft predicts.

Mortgage delinquency is directly linked to unemployment, Nothaft said, as historically, the rate of serious delinquent mortgages (90 or more days late) “generally crests within a year of the start of the recovery in payroll employment.” He expects the current cycle to fit historical trends.

“Payrolls began to rise last January and by the spring the seriously delinquent rate had begun to decline,” Nothaft said. “Look for the seriously delinquent rate in the overall market to gradually decline further during 2011, reflecting employment gains and family income growth, additional loan modifications and other foreclosure alternatives, and the transition of foreclosed homes to REO.”

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