Tuesday, October 26, 2010
What does the Foreclosure Crisis Mean for You?
Weitz – an article from the Wall Street Journal this weekend:
WSJ - For the vast majority of homeowners, new questions about the state of foreclosures appear to be irrelevant. Few people seem to have been wrongly thrown out of their homes, and those who have been are generally months or years behind on their mortgage payments.
But the fallout from the crisis is beginning to be felt in real-estate markets across the country, particularly in places dominated by vacation homes and investment properties. Some of the worst-hit areas could be Western ski towns, because fall is the busiest time of the year for sales.
By the Numbers
• 27% - Percentage of total home sales in 2009 that were second homes.
• 30% - Percentage of total mortgage defaults attributable to second-home and investment properties.
• 4.57% - Percentage of mortgages in some state of the foreclosure process, June 2010. (Weitz - and the loans that are in default is much higher)
• 9.4 Months - The average amount of time from default until foreclosure proceedings begin on a "jumbo" mortgage loan.
Real-estate salespeople in some of those places are worried. "September and October are usually the height of the selling-season for us," says Rich Armstrong, who owns the brokerage Rare Properties in Jackson Hole, Wyo. "Now we are seeing a number of what we call 'fence sitters,' people who would have leapt in even a month ago, but now are waiting on the sidelines."
The "foreclosure crisis" is a result of the frenzied real-estate boom and bust of the past decade. Banks made foolish loans, and borrowers signed up for them—only to default later, as the economy slumped. Banks rushed to reclaim properties, launching a record number of foreclosure proceedings.
In the past several weeks flaws have emerged in that complex process. Because of the high volume of foreclosures, the documentation supporting legal actions was prepared hastily, and some homes were seized improperly.
Yet the far bigger worry is what happens next. A frenzy of lawsuits and banks' examinations of their own practices could throw more of the millions of foreclosures of the past few years into legal jeopardy. Attorneys general in all 50 states are investigating, and plaintiffs' lawyers are working hard to perfect their legal strategies for suits on behalf of people who have been foreclosed on.
The suits might well fail. But just the threat that past foreclosure rulings might be overturned could result in collateral damage. In some places, banks are rushing foreclosed properties to market. In others, buyers are stepping back, refusing to buy foreclosed properties or "short sales"—homes sold by owners for less than the mortgage balance. In markets already beset with large inventories of foreclosed properties, the result could be a slower recovery.
Weitz – I hate to sound pessimistic, but I genuinely believe we have yet to reach a true bottom based on the huge supply of properties for sale across the country, and meager demand for those homes. This econ 101 fact, coupled with less access to financing, and fewer qualified buyers will lead to continued struggles.
I constantly hear that 'interest rates are at all time lows...now is a great time to buy. My response: what happens when/ if interest go up? Prices come down since there is a direct correlation to prices, and borrowing costs.
Coastal markets and ski areas are feeling the most anxiety. Some already are littered with foreclosures—in part because they're dominated by second-home and investment properties. Those owners are more willing to walk away from a house that isn't their primary residence.
Weitz - Coastal Markets are also under the most pressure since they are the highest priced, and had the most excessive appreciation during the boom.
Foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac estimates that, nationwide, 30% to 35% of properties in foreclosure are owned by investors or were second homes. In Aspen, Colo., the figure is about 60%, says Kim McKinley, owner of McKinley Sales Real Estate in Basalt and Aspen, Colo. If foreclosure proceedings slow from here, inventory could jump, leading to price weakness later.
The foreclosure mess could hurt homeowners in another way: The costs of buying a home and paying off the mortgage are likely to go up, say housing experts.
The rising costs will come both during the closing and throughout the life of the loan.
At the closing, the cost of title insurance, which protects a property buyer from claims of ownership made by other people, is likely to rise, industry officials say. Title insurance is one of those annoying costs that can sneak up on a buyer during a close; premiums average around $2,000 across states, says Tim Dwyer, CEO of insurer Entitle Direct Group.
The foreclosure mess has sent insurers scrambling. One of the largest, Old Republic Title Insurance, told its agents on Oct. 1 not to issue policies on homes that have been foreclosed by GMAC Mortgage or J.P. Morgan Chase. And on Wednesday, the nation's largest title insurer, Fidelity National Financial, said lenders must vouch for the accuracy of their paperwork before it will insure properties.
Just like homeowners-insurance rates rise after a hurricane, the rates for title insurance are expected to rise, to compensate for the added risk.
Other costs could be felt during the life of the loan. Until the current mess, servicing loans was a low-margin, high-volume business. Servicers collect mortgage payments from borrowers and send them off to mortgage holders, and if the loan gets into trouble, they manage the foreclosure. Few doubt this process will get costlier now that it is under scrutiny from regulators and the courts. That higher cost likely will show up in higher interest rates for borrowers.
Both of these higher costs also would hit homeowners who refinance their loans.
How much the costs of buying a home will rise is unknown. Mortgage industry officials say it is too soon to tell. And no one believes the costs will significantly change the price of a home. But with the housing market still weak, the uncertainty is making the prospect of buying—or selling—a home that much dicier.
The timing of the foreclosure mess is especially inconvenient for ski towns, given the fall selling season.
Property owners are growing nervous. In Park City, Utah, lenders are quickly unloading foreclosed homes ahead of what could be a long, stalled foreclosure process, says Joe Trabaccone, a real-estate agent there.
On Oct. 11, for example, J.P. Morgan Chase put up for sale an 8,000-square-foot home adjacent to a private gated golf course. Mr. Trabaccone initially recommended the property be listed for $1.6 million, but Chase opted for $1.26 million. "They are offering these homes far too low just to hurry up and sell them," Mr. Trabaccone says.
Even so, it hasn't worked. A buyer made an offer and signed a contract, but then backed out.
In South Lake Tahoe, Calif., on Thursday, Freddie Mac, the big government-sponsored guarantor of mortgages, put a foreclosed home that had just been listed for sale on hold, freezing the property until paperwork could be straightened out. The foreclosure mess "seems to be filtering down and it could be an impact," says Doug Rosner, the broker who had listed the home. Three other properties in town were also frozen, another real-estate agent says.
The "sand states" of Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada are being hit as well. These areas, too, have a lot of vacation and investment properties—and a lot of foreclosures.
The possible foreclosure wars to come loom so largely over Florida markets that Ms. Speronis is urging condo sellers to consider any offer they get, even if it is far below asking price or what is owed on the mortgage.
Dianne Cloutier, a records supervisor in Chelmsford, Mass., had been looking for a retirement property in Cape Coral, but decided to wait because of the foreclosure mess. "It's left us on hold until we are sure the banks have legitimately foreclosed on people and that nobody can come back on us to get their property back," she says.
Foreclosures aren't the only problem. Short sales are getting more difficult to pull off, too.
In Bend, Ore., agents say buyers are avoiding short sales or even backing out of contracts because they don't want to deal with paperwork hassles or the chance of a court challenge later.
The short sales "can be very frustrating," adds Becky Ozrelic, of with Steve Scott Realtors in Bend. "You just have buyers waiting and waiting."
For sellers, lining up a short sale was tough even before the latest foreclosure crisis. Banks and mortgage "servicers," the outfits that process payments, already had been scrambling to handle surging workloads.
For more information on your rights in foreclosure or short sale, consider contacting a Seattle Foreclosure Attorney.
Weitz Law Firm, PLLC
5400 Carillon Point, Bldg 5000
Kirkland, WA 98033
at 9:52 AM