Fort Worth Real Estate Online


One More Cause of the Sub-Prime Crisis... How Ironic Is This ?

A thought came bouncing into my brain this morning... about the "sub-prime" crisis, and all the foreclosures that have followed, and are continuing to follow.  I have thought about this on and off... throughout my entire real estate career.

It all has to do with how the sub-prime loans are put together in the first place.  Many of them are set up for the increased likelyhood of failure... from the "get-go."

Just what is a "sub-prime" loan ?  It is simply a loan that is made to buyers that are not "prime" buyers.  They are buyers with questionable credit scores, or short job history, or buyers with high debt to income rations, or buyers that for some reason or other... are less desirable borrowers... as far as the lenders are concerned.

Lenders lend mony for one reason... To Make Money.  Nothing wrong with that.  Making money is a good thing.  I think everyone who works a job, or invests in something or other... should make money from doing it.

Lenders lend money... mortgages... on the basis of one thing, and one thing ONLY.   That one thing... is "risk."  The lower the risk... the quicker the loan is approved.  The lower the risk... the better the interest rate will be for the borrower.   These borrowers are "prime" borrowers.  Lenders lend to them very quickly... because of the extremely low risk... and because there is a much smaller chance... much smaller... that the mortgage loan in question will ever go into "default."

When a lender considers making a loan to a borrower who is a greater credit risk... of course they hesitate in making the loan.  The RISK is greater, so the possibility of default is greater. 

So... what does the lender do ?  When they see that making a certain loan has a greater risk to it... they look at the risk, and often decide that IF... they can make a higher profit on that loan... by charging a higher interest rate... anywhere from two percent to five percent higher... or even higher than that... sometimes they decide to make the loan.  The higher the return for them on the loan, the greater risk they are likely to take.

Sometimes in addition to charging the "riskier" borrower a higher interest rate, they also charge the borrower "points"... to increase the "yield" of the loan... which, of course, makes making the loan more profitable for them.  A buyer who get this type of loan... has a higher interest rate... which means his payments are higher... which of course makes it more difficult for him to make his mortgage payments.

They lenders figure that the increased risk might be worth it because of the higher rate they make, and the one, two or more points they get at closing... right up front.

Finally... I'm getting to the point of all this !  Whew !  So, from day one, the "high risk buyer" gets a higher interest rate, and sometimes they get charged extremely high loan fees (which depletes their "cash reserves").  Both of these things make it much more difficult for the "high risk" borrower to make their mortgage payments.  It's almost like they are set up for failure... right from the beginning.

A final problem with this type of sub-prime loan... is that the loan... if it is a conventional loan... often does not have an "escrow account."  This means that the taxes and insurance are not collected monthly.  What it also means is that this riskier buyer with depleted cash reserves gets faced with having to come up with a huge chunk of money at the end of each year... to pay their real estate taxes.  Many, many times... this is impossible for them to do.

I do not have any ideas or answers to this. 

Perhaps the lenders may decide not to make these higher-risk "sub prime" loans.  But, when they do that... they cast aside the higher return on those "risky" loans... which in turn lowers their profit.  That... in turn... throws a giant monkey wrench into the wheels of the overall economy. 

What to do, what to do ?  The only way I can see out of this... is for the lenders to make more money on the "prime" loans... to build up their "corporate reserves..." to help them cover their losses when the defaults start happening.  If higher lender reserves were required, fewer lenders would be in such deep trouble.  A mortgage company that goes under... helps no one.

And... ironically... the lenders who set these sub-prime borrowers up for failure... are also setting themselves up for failure by so doing.  Why can't they see how backwards this all is ?

In the mortgage industry... just as in so many other things in life... there must be a "balance."  How to achieve it... seems to be the big "sub-prime" question of the day !

Comment balloon 38 commentsKaren Anne Stone • February 21 2008 01:12PM


A few months ago, Jon Stewart did a segment on sub prime mortgages, and I'm still looking for it on YouTube.  The punch lines went something like -

Jon:  Well it sounds to me like these loans are a really bad deal!

Reporter:  Yes, Jon, and that's why people have just stopped repaying them.

It's the point you're making, and I think it's a good one.

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (Redfin) over 12 years ago

Gouging the marginal borrower makes sense to some, but it can be overdone.  If you heap enough fees and surcharges on a borrower who doesn't have perfect credit, you'll eventually "kill the goose that lays the golden egg".  Not very sensible or productive, is it?


Posted by Eric Kodner, CRS, Madeline Island Realty, LaPointe, WI 54850 - (Madeline Island Realty) over 12 years ago

Patricia:  It all depends if it's a good deal, or not.  A buyer with marginal credit will obligate themselves to make the higher payments on these sub-prime loans... for one reason, and one reason only.  That is makes sense for them to do so.

If they are paying a premium rate because they got a really "good deal" on a house that they could not get otherwise... and continue to see the value of that house increase... because it's in a good location, they will continue to make those "higher" payments.

If however, the values of the homes in their area start to fall, and continue to fall, and the borrower/home owner no longer sees that buying the home in question "was a good thing..." they "bail." 

The same thing is true... but much more prevalent... when the buyer of this "good deal" who suddenly sees it's value dropping... is an investor.  First, they don't live in the house, so they are not "emotionally invested" in it.  If it was originally an "investment" purchase... and it no longer makes monetary sense to make payments on a house that is now worth much less than they paid for it... they bail, too.

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago
Eric:  There is only so much return that can be added to a sub-prime loan.  It has to be in balance... so it continues to be a good thing for both the lender and the borrower.  So, it is not very sensible, nor is it very productive.  So, what to do ?
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago

Karen Anne -- These days, there seems to be a type of individual out there who wants to punish the wicked and (of course) proclaim themselves virtuous at the same time.  I've read a number of posts on AR by some who feel that we should reinstate debtors prisons.  Seems like we're going backwards as a society.

Hey, over on a couple of other members' posts, they're having a contest to see who is more patriotic and who loves America more.  There's so much flag-waving going on by the righteous that maybe AR will be able to get a group medical policy that covers bursitis!

Posted by Eric Kodner, CRS, Madeline Island Realty, LaPointe, WI 54850 - (Madeline Island Realty) over 12 years ago

Karen.  You know, it's always looked that way to me too.  The more likely a person is to default, the more difficult they make it for them to get anything going. 

The loan officers make a bundle up front and then let the chips fall where they may.  If the only buyers they approved were likely to succeed, that would be O.K.  But, we know that isn't the case.

Good post.  Thanks.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 12 years ago

Eric:  And just who are these "wicked" who need to be punished ?  I am wondering how many of those "wicked" ones these Realtors sold to ?  Debtor's Prisons... how bizarre.  And Eric, we've been going backwards... slip slidin' away... for the last eight years.  Those nasty lyin' rascals !  Now there's the ones who need to be in "liar's prisons."  LOL.

Send me a link to some of these posts where they are beating their chests about being more patriotic.  I could use a little "rebel rousin' fun" today.  It's a slow day... LOL.  Who loves America more, huh ?  I've heard that nonsense before.  I am just hoping that Barack and Hillary don't both implode.  We do not need four more years of this nonsense.  We really don't.  Maybe Barack will get the nod, and put Joe Biden on the ticket.  I fear that Obama won't be able to handle McCain in a head-on debate.  I dunno.

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago
Hi Lenn:  Exactly !  Lenn... I don't know what the answer is.  Charging higher rates and higher fees of the sub-prime borrowers makes no sense whatsoever.  As I said... all it does is make them more likely to have to default.  Those least able to carry the burden get the heaviest weights stapled to their backs.  Thanks for the compliment, Lenn.  From you... it means a lot.  Take care...
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago

It would seem to me that if a lender was considering making a loan to someone with less than prime credit, then wouldn't it make sense, if they were going to approve them anyway, to give them a loan with possibly a 1% bump in the rate and put them on a 2 year term.  If at the end of the 2 years the borrower has shown to be responsible and on time, then the rate is adjusted to the same rate as a prime borrower.  

My theory is that if the lenders FICO threshold is 640 and the potential borrower has a 600, then they should be considered for this type of program.

IMO someone with a 510, 540, 460, etc. should wait till they clear up their issues before even thinking about buying a house. 

Posted by Carol Smith (Casmi Photography) over 12 years ago

Karen.  I have long recommended the pay-option loans for buyers who need a year or two or three to establish a payment record.  When they need a few months with no payment or partial payment, that money is added to the principal balance. 

That's money management. 

They seem to get some wierd kind of joy out of making things harder for folks for whom things are already hard. 

Adding money to a principal balance is a better solution for the buyer, the lender and society and especially the real estate industry. 

This is a very important post because the "feel good" and "smoke and mirrors" solutions promulgated by the government today are not going to work, IMO.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 12 years ago

Lenn:  That is such a simple solution... and would surely solve so many of the cash-crunch problems that so many home-owners have.  But, it's such a simple solution... no wonder nobody in any position of power has thought of it.  Money management... making your money work for you.  Just doing that simple thing would totally change the current "crisis..." in my humble opinion.

The problem of not being able to pay one's real estate taxes because of the lack of an escrow account... could be totally fixed by the lender giving the borrower a three month no-payment.  It goes to the end of the loan, and no foreclosure takes place.  How much more simplified could it be ?  Again, Lenn... thanks for sharing.  Take care...

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago
Posted by Michael Fowler, Broker, Owner Fowler Realty (Fowler Realty Quad Cities) over 12 years ago

Michael:  I'm glad you found this helpful.  There are so many folks out there who don't have much of an idea about how mortgages work, and what the difference in the loans and risks are between a prime borrower and a sub-prime borrower. 

Basically, the more money the lender can make on a really risky loan, the more likely they are to take a chance on it.  Now... this does make sense for the lender... because they are taking a bigger risk... they should profit more on it.  But, at the same time... them making a greater profit on it... by a higher rate and much higher fees... both of those things makes the loan even riskier for the borrower... which can easily boomerang back onto the lender.  There has got to be a better way.

That is why FHA loans might be the answer.  With the Federal Housing Administration "insuring" the loan, and charging both an upfront fee (it's an insurance fee) and a monthly fee (another insurance fee) from the borrower, if the borrower defaults... the moneys from a gazillion loans' "insurance fees" can take the loss.  The thing here is... that these fees are charged for every single loan the FHA makes... regardless of the credit worthiness of the borrower.

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago

Karen, when interest rates were over 15%, I bought a home.  It was better than renting.  In todays world, it's easier to give up, than it is to pay your debts.  We list homes every day that are bank repo's.....know what we find?  Money.  People that can't handle money, were allowed to get sup-prime loans.  And I agree that sub-prime loans should have never been allowed.

Posted by Kay Van Kampen, RealtorĀ®, Springfield Mo Real Estate (RE/MAX Broker, RE/MAX) over 12 years ago
Karen Anne, I never could understand why someone who had mediocre credit could get a loan just by paying more points and a higher interest rate.  If they couldn't pay their bills before why would they think it was any different now.  As a matter of fact they are charging this person who couldn't pay their bills more so they are actually just setting them up to fail.  I so gree!!!
Posted by Marchel Peterson, Spring TX Real Estate E-Pro (Results Realty) over 12 years ago
Karen-Anne:  Great blog..How some of this came about is interesting. With interest rates so low, investors were trying to juice up returns. Ironically, excess liquidity triggered the credit crunch by making higher interest loans irresistible to investors who were hungry for returns.  So in a sense, these borrowers were used - but when they couldn't perform, they were tossed to the wolves.
Posted by Ruthmarie Hicks (Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605) over 12 years ago
Hi Kay:  I think that the sub-prime loans should have been handled differently.  Perhaps they should have been done away with, and only a different type of FHA loan could have taken it's place... with the sort of Mortgage Insurance mentioned above to be required of all borrowers... regardless of credit scores.
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago
Marchel:  That is my main difficulty with sub-prime loans.  The rate is higher and the points and fees are higher... making it even more difficult for these "on the edge" buyers to repay it.  Yes... they are being set up to fail.
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago

Ruthmarie:  I also think a big part of being set up to fail happened to many of the investors from California and Las Vegas who bought five's and ten's of new home specs... without even seeing them.  That dropped an over-supply of rental units on the market in neighborhoods where new homes were still being sold. 

It actually became more expensive to rent a home than to buy one, which was somewhat of a set-up for the silly investors who bought sight-unseen... to fail.  Vacant, not rented, sitting for six to nine months.  The investors ran out of cash, the vacant investor homes went into foreclosure, and flooded the new home neighborhoods... when they helped kill the market, when every third home "looked like" a foreclosure.  Not a good thing !   Ruthmarie... thanks for your kind words. 

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago

Carol:  The main problem with what you are suggesting... is that it makes too much sense.  The loan approvals became so irrational and out of hand... that once again... the borrowers seemed set up for failure.

If there was a FICO threshhold of 640, after the initial loan was rejected, the builder pushed their own mortgage companies to come up with programs that would approved these poor borrowers... who initially moved into their American Dream all excited... only to then see their dreams turn into nightmares.

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago
Karen Anne - I read in the paper today that 20% of subprime mortgage borrowers are late on payments.  This will likely get worse as most subprime borrowers, as you say, have very little money saved for a rainy day.  If they lose their job or get ill or have an unexpected expense, such as a large car repair or furnace replacement, then they could easily fall behind.  The fall out is affecting the whole mortgage industry, however, making it difficult for buyers with even excellent credit to get mortgages.
Posted by Gail Robinson, CRS, GRI, e-PRO Fairfield County, CT (William Raveis Real Estate) over 12 years ago

Karen...very well explained and right on the money! And everyone looked the other way....

It's not about the people giving the's about the people getting the money. The current administration has been encouraging spend,spend,spend... and that's exactly what everyone did!

Posted by Joan Mirantz, Realtor, GRI, CBR, SRES - Concord New Hampshire (Homequest Real Estate) over 12 years ago

Karen Anne,  good post.  It seems like lenders were just doing their part to help those who were dreaming of owing a home a chance to experience the American Dream.  What they forgot is that life is not a dream.  Numbers don't lie.  The odds are odds because they are rarely ever beaten.  Lenders should have known better than to violate what they established as qualifications.  I think it's a case of the greedy being taking advantage by the greedier. But who is to decide who the greedier is in this case?

Keep blogging Karen Anne...

Posted by Cedric (Ced) Reynolds, (909) 263-4569 over 12 years ago
Karen Anne, somehow in the subprime mess the "risk" element went out the window, and they only focused on making money.
Posted by Gary Woltal, Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth (Keller Williams Realty) over 12 years ago

Karen Anne -- I read an interview a couple days ago with a fellow who is the head of one of California's largest credit unions.  He commented about the housing tragedy that has resulted in the downgrading of the creditworthiness of millions of Americans.  And he also stated that somehow the system will have to find a way to somehow "rehabilitate" the credit standing of those who have had their FICO scores deflated.   

It seems to give a few people a feeling of moral superiority to see others lose their homes and to see others' credit ratings plunge.  But in reality, it isn't good for any of us.  It does absolutely no good to gouge people, to squeeze them with fees and punitive rates, until they are forced into foreclosure.  There are millions in this country who are a payment or two away from the same fate.

Setting people up to fail, as commented above, is a self-fulfilling catastrophe.   

Posted by Eric Kodner, CRS, Madeline Island Realty, LaPointe, WI 54850 - (Madeline Island Realty) over 12 years ago

Karen Anne, this is a very good post which has received many wise and thoughtful comments. I think you hit the nail on the head with the sub-prime loan mess being a set up to fail - duh? 

 I smell G-R-E-E-D here with a capital G. I believe it reflects our economy on the whole and our (weak) leadership at the top.  We have way too many people hovering at the disaster level because of low wages, no health coverage, and yes, poor money management.  But income has not increased for the average family as they see their expenses rise monthly. I hesitate to see what my heating gas bill will be this month!  It is easier to be a good money manager when you have money to manage.

I got a good laugh out of Eric's depiction of the flag wavers and your response to wade in and set them straight. I'm sooooo glad I found some people here on AR with similar views to mine. Sometimes this platform can be a little strident over there with the FW's.

Posted by Bonnie & Terry Westbrook, Grand Rapids MI Real Estate (Westbrook Realty) over 12 years ago
Gail:  But how many of the 20% of sub-prime borrowers who are late on their payments would not be late if their rates were not raised, and their fees were not boosted by the mortgage companies that originally gave them the mortgage ?  It's like the mortgage company aiming their gun at their own foot, then pulling the trigger, and then wondering from then on... why they walk so funny ?  LOL.
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago
Joan:  We did not have this economic climate during the Clinton years from 1993 to 2001.  One of the reasons that this crisis is so bad... is that it is sort of a "piling on" on top of the incredible deficits Bush caused by over spending... and then cutting taxes on those who really didn't ask for the cut nor did they need it.  Then, add Halliburton and Enron, and turn on the blender... LOL.  That's what ya call a mess.
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago
Cedric:  I'm not sure how greedy it was, but it surely was quite stupid.  The lenders make money on prime loans... lots of money.  I think the FHA program is a better answer.  Everyone pays both an up-front mortgage insurance fee (almost always rolled into the loan) and a monthly mortgage insurance fee of one-half percent.  Everyone pays it... which is the way it should be.  One might complain that if everyone pays it... even the folks with great credit... it is unfair to them for making them "suffer."  Well, kids... under this current crisis, "everyone" is suffering... the sub-prime borrowers, and everyone else in the country... in one way or another.  This crisis does not only affect the borrowers.  It's tentacles reach into all sorts of nooks and crannies.  By the way... I know what a "nook is... but what the heck is a cranny ?  Just one more of life's mysteries.
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago
Gary:  As I have said... these goombah mortgage companies took the weakest borrowers, gave them the toughest terms, and then rolled a bucket of marbles under their feet... only to wonder what to do about the mess that followed.
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago
Eric:  Of course it is a self-fulfilling catastrophe.  Those who are affected by this crisis are not all banded together in one specific group.  The tentacles of this crisis octopus stretch far and wide... and continue to spread.  Perhaps the movie "Snakes On A Plane" should be re-made as "Snakes in a Loan Portfolio." ?
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago

Bonnie:  One thing I really like about my posts... is the fact that people actually "comment."  I write the post, and then together... everyone who visits write the remainder of the story.  This comment I am writing is comment number 32... and 30 of the 32 comments are of decent length.  That makes me feel like my writing the post was worthwhile.  Sometimes the comments follow an honest, thought-provoking post... like this one. 

I must admit, thought, that occasionally, when I am in just that "certain mood"... I write a post just to instigate a debate.  It must be a leftover trait from my rabble-rousing days as a young hippie girl in the fifties when I was going to Catholic grade school, and a hippie nineteen year old in the sixties when I was teaching in the Catholic grade schools.  I can even remember boycotting the Catholic mass that was said in Latin during my Catholic grade school days when I was ten years old... in the fifth grade.  Wow, did the principal, Sister Mary Norbert, come down in my neck.  It was so fun :)  Just think... I was ten years old... LOL.

Sorry Bonnie, I got carried away.  Now, you said the mess reflects our (weak) leadership.  We have "leadership ?"  Hmmm.  All one has to do is wrap themselves in the flag, and hold out their cross... and they expect everyone to genuflect.  It is funny how many "sheep" honor those who do that, when in reality they should fear them.

Bonnie... I don't know if you read this post of mine.  It was from December, so I am including a link for your reading enjoyment.

An Explanation for Many of the Things that Make you Go Hmmm

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 12 years ago
Yes, what do we do? That is the big question. I have had numerous calls of people wanting me to joina venture of hard money lending. You just need good credit.....right? Well the thought of charging 18% interest to a buyer makes me a little sick. Not to say that this will work out any way, Ony the good Lord knows where we are going. But I choose to believe it is UP all the way UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Anonymous about 12 years ago

The network news reported yesteday that there is one credit card company that charges a 41% "default rate" if a payment is missed!

The commenter above feels it is a little sick to be charging 18% interest.  How sick is it that a 41% interest rate is legal anywhere in this country?

Posted by Eric Kodner, CRS, Madeline Island Realty, LaPointe, WI 54850 - (Madeline Island Realty) about 12 years ago
Eric:  How nice of the current administration to allow such nonsense to go on, and then give those thieves their very own special tax break.  It is not adding insult to injury, it is adding an injury on top of another injury. 
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) about 12 years ago

I don't think anyone will deny that the economy is a mess. You are right that 41% is rediculous. It's as bad as the banks charging you $35 if you misbalance your bank account and a $4 coffee sends you over your balance. Ever paid $39 for a cup of coffee? I have. lol. I thought a deposit was credited, it wasn't, went to Starbucks and got a coffee and was charged a $35 overlimit fee. MAde me mad. Bank wouldn't change it though. My account went $500 something negative that day!!! That's more than some people make in a two week period!!!

Our economic system is set up to punish. It's not set up to reward. It's obviously failing miserably.

Posted by Cheri Smith, Realtor Prudential Gary Greene (Prudential Gary Greene, Cypress TX) about 12 years ago

Cheri:  Of course that is crazy.  And even crazier that every item that hits your account after that is another $35.  Ten items = $350.00 and if you try and fight them, they come on as if they think you're an idiot.  Cheri... I'm sorry that they hit you so hard.  Take care...

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) about 12 years ago

Hi Karen Anne- good post, I just joined the RE/MAX Group btw.

When I moved from Fremont, CA to Tulsa, OK, I went from starter homes from 600K to starter homes at 100K.  Surely, I thought, most people could afford a 100K home if they really put their mind to it.  Surely, I also thought, they would save up 5K or so to buy these homes with some equity. 

So, it's depressing to note that nothing is really changing with the subprime mess ordeal so far.  People are still buying homes with little or no money down with various forms of seller assistance.  At the end of five years, their equity will be from market appreciation, not downpayment and principal paydown.  These homes will still be very tempting to walk away from as a lot of buyers will not have much of their own equity at stake.  So we are still planting more subprime mess seeds for the future.

Interestingly, if not for the subprime mess, this should be a time when people are investing vigorously in the real estate market as an inflation hedge.  Look at the other inflation hedges.  (metals, oil)  Real estate is the most accessible inflation hedge for a lot of people.



Posted by Peter Tamura, BANNOCHIE TEAM (Coldwell Banker Select) about 12 years ago