By conventional standards, the deal offered a low return and comparatively high risk. But that didn't stop banks and other investors from snapping up a recent $6.5 million mortgage securitization-and asking the issuer for more.
The transaction was the first-ever securitization by Habitat for Humanity International, a Christian ministry that finances homes for the poor. The deal is one of several that mortgage lenders recently delivered to Wall Street without following traditional securitization procedures.
The Habitat for Humanity transaction didn't fit the mold for a number of reasons. The issue supplied a roughly 3% return, several points below the rates of conventional mortgage securities. Also, at a little more than $6 million, the deal was tiny compared with securitizations of $100 million or more that underwriters generally handle.
The Americus, Ga., organization got a Wall Street law firm to structure the deal pro bono and then sought investors who would be satisfied with nonfinancial rewards, said Regina Hopkins, general counsel for Habitat for Humanity.
Chase Manhattan Bank and Norwest Financial Corp. were among those buying into the deal, and have already indicated interest in the $10 million offering Habitat for Humanity plans for the fall.
"I don't think anyone would buy the securitization to make money," said Chase Manhattan vice president Michael Swearingen.
Instead, the investment allows Chase to indirectly serve low-end borrowers whom the company's mortgage unit can't reach, Mr. Swearingen said.
Indeed, Habitat for Humanity's securitization is backed by loans that carry no interest rate and require no down payment. The bonds are structured with overcollateralization to provide a small return.
"It's very difficult for a conventional mortgage company to do something like that," Mr. Swearingen said.
Subprime lender American Business Financial Services also takes an enterprising approach to securitization. The Bala Cynwyd, Pa., company combines business and home equity loans into a single package for investors. Most deals on Wall Street consist of just one type of loan.
The approach raises capital for the company's mortgage and business credit units, said Anthony J. Santilli, president of American Business Financial.
Prudential Securities structured and marketed the deal to institutional investors who wanted to add some variety to their portfolios.
And NationsBank Corp. recently went to Wall Street with a $1 billion package of mortgages originated or serviced by its mortgage company.
The deal was not presented as a conventional mortgage securitization but as a real estate investment trust. The structure requires from NationsBank considerable backup capital. But REITs are exempt from federal corporation taxes as long as they distribute 95% or more of their income to investors.
The REIT, consisting of first mortgages, was rated AAA by Fitch Investors Service.
Some experts say that REITs may be a fast-growing segment of the mortgage business because they can hold loans in portfolio at lower cost than almost any other kind of company.