Top

RealtyTrac: Fla. leads in 3Q foreclosures

October 15, 2014

foreclosure_stampIRVINE, Calif. – Oct. 15, 2014 – In the third quarter, Florida once again had the highest state foreclosure rate – default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions – in the nation, according to RealtyTrac’s U.S. Foreclosure Market Report.

Still, Florida foreclosures declined both month-to-month and year-to-year, at 4 percent and 17 percent respectively. One in every 153 Florida housing units had a foreclosure filing – a total of 58,589 Florida properties.

By metro area, Orlando, Atlantic City and Macon, Ga., posted the nation’s top metro foreclosure rates in the third quarter.

With one out of every 117 housing units facing a foreclosure filing in the third quarter, Orlando posted the highest foreclosure rate among metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with a population of 200,000 or more. Orlando saw its foreclosure rate decline 1 percent since the second quarter, but it rose 16 percent year-to-year.

In Ocala and Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, third quarter foreclosure activity decreased year-to-year. However, the two cities still posted the nation’s fourth and fifth highest overall metro foreclosure rates in the third quarter.

The remaining five metro areas with top 10 foreclosure rates were all in Florida:

* Miami at No. 6 (one in every 137 housing units with a foreclosure filing)
* Jacksonville at No. 7 (one in every 140 housing units)
* Tampa at No. 8 (one in every 148 housing units)
* Lakeland at No. 9 (one in every 158 housing units)
* Port St. Lucie at No. 10 (one in every 175 housing units).

Florida also remains one of the top states for the length of time it takes to complete a foreclosure, ranking second at 951 days. Only New Jersey (1,064 days) foreclosures take longer. Hawaii (937 days), New York (902 days) and Illinois (889 days) round out the top five states.

National foreclosures

Nationally, RealtyTrac reports that third quarter foreclosures were down 16 percent year-to-year but up 0.42 percent quarter-to-quarter. Looking at just September, U.S. foreclosure activity decreased on a year-over-year basis for the 48th consecutive month.

“September foreclosure activity was back to pre-housing bubble levels nationwide, in large part thanks to a continued slide in bank repossessions,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “However, a recent rise in scheduled foreclosure auctions in many markets across the country shows lenders are continuing to clean house of lingering delinquent loans. This rise in scheduled auctions foreshadows a corresponding rise in bank repossessions and auction sales to third party buyers in the coming months.”

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

Filed Under Articles · Tagged with:  ·
No Comments · Comment on this post

Fla. home sale prices up 11.4% year-to-year in Dec.

January 24, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jan. 23, 2014 – Florida’s housing market reported higher median prices, more new listings, fewer days on the market and the continued stabilization of inventory in December, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 19,497 last month, up 8.6 percent over the December 2012 figure.

“Florida’s housing market continues to demonstrate its recovery,” says 2014 Florida Realtors President Sherri Meadows, CEO and team leader, Keller Williams, with market centers in Gainesville, Ocala and the Villages. “December marked over two years – 25 months – of consecutive gains in statewide median sales prices, year-over-year, for both single-family homes and for townhouse-condo properties. The rising prices, along with the renewed strength of the state’s housing market, are encouraging more homeowners to list their properties for sale. Statewide, new listings for single-family homes increased 23.8 percent in December, while new townhome-condo listings rose 8.1 percent. The rising prices mean increased equity, which is another reason people are listing properties.

“Properties also are taking less time to sell, another trend that is sparking sellers’ interest,” Meadows added. “In December, the median days on market (the midpoint of the number of days it took for a property to sell that month) was 50 days for single-family homes and 51 days for townhouses and condos. That means 50 percent of homes on the market in Florida sell in less than two months.”

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $172,630, up 11.4 percent from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. The statewide median price for townhouse-condo properties in December was $137,500, up 17 percent over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in November 2013 was $196,200, up 9.4 percent from the previous year; the national median existing condo price was $197,400. In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in November was $422,210; in Massachusetts, it was $316,500; in Maryland, it was $257,677; and in New York, it was $229,000.

Looking at Florida’s townhome-condo market, statewide closed sales totaled 8,364 last month, down slightly (2.5 percent) compared to December 2012. However, the closed sales data reflected fewer short sales and cash-only sales in December: Traditional sales in Florida rose 23.3 percent for single-family homes and 6 percent for condo-townhome properties. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

“Florida’s market exhibited all the signs of the annual holiday lull,” said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. “Because of things like the reduced number of workdays and the presence of other important things to do, the statistics at this time of year don’t necessarily give a good read on where the market really is. Three continuing trends to note, however, are rising inventories, declining cash sales and the lessening presence of distressed property sales.

“The first two are indicative of reduced investor activity and thus a return to a more normal market. The last is a product of rising values that have increased market sales relative to short sales and foreclosures.”

Inventory was at a 5.5-months’ supply in December for single-family homes and at a 5.8-months’ supply for townhouse-condo properties, according to Florida Realtors.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.46 percent in December 2013, up from the 3.35 percent average recorded during the same month a year earlier.

To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to Florida Realtors Media Center under Latest Releases, or download the December 2013 data report PDFs under Market Data.

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

Filed Under Articles · Tagged with:  ·
1 Comment · Comment on this post

Economists keep rosy view for 3% growth in 2014

September 9, 2013

NEW YORK – Sept. 9, 2013 – Business forecasters maintained their rosy view of the U.S. economy in 2014, predicting 3 percent growth by the second quarter of next year, low inflation and improving employment.

The top economists surveyed by the National Association of Business Economics (NABE) between Aug. 8 and Aug. 20 also said there’s an 80 percent likelihood that the pickup in growth will prompt the Federal Reserve to trim its monthly $85 billion purchases of mortgage bonds and Treasury bills next year.

The NABE’s 43 respondents said in a report released Monday that there’s a 45 percent chance the Fed will begin its so-called “tapering” as early as this year.

But economists trimmed their expectations for the second half of 2013 since the last survey, in May.

The economists predicted that real gross domestic product would grow at a 2.3 percent annualized rate in the third quarter through September, down from 2.5 percent seen earlier; and 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 2.8 percent seen earlier. They were less optimistic about consumer spending, industrial production and private investment in nonresidential structures, equipment and software.

Read More

Filed Under Articles · Tagged with:  ·
1 Comment · Comment on this post

Slowdown in home prices? No reason to panic

August 14, 2013

rising-prices-300x225NEW YORK – Aug. 14, 2013 – Though home prices have risen nearly 12 percent from a year ago, a slowdown is expected soon. But many analysts say it’s no cause for concern.

“Prices are still going to rise – just not as at brisk a pace as we’ve seen over the past year,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “This should calm down those pundits who have fretted over a new crop of housing bubbles.”

According to a report by Goldman Sachs economists, home prices will likely moderate because they have returned to “fair value” and are no longer being viewed as “undervalued,” as they were for the past two years. Also, a rise in mortgage rates may cause some buyers to re-evaluate their options.

For the first time this year, buyer traffic dropped below agents’ expectations, and “the next few months will be crucial to determining whether this is just a pause or something more,” the Goldman Sachs report notes.

The report also notes that investors will likely slow their purchases as the number of foreclosures starts to dry up. What’s more, the inventory of homes for sale is starting to loosen as more sellers look to put their homes on the market. Those sellers, in turn, will then be looking to purchase another home, so prices will still likely continue to rise until new-home construction catches up.

“With the improving underlying housing demand driven by household formation and economic recovery, we think housing activity will remain on an upward trajectory, despite occasional ups and downs along the way,” says the Goldman report.

Source: “Why Home-Price Growth Will Slow,” The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 12, 2013)

Filed Under Articles · Tagged with:  ·
No Comments · Comment on this post

Higher Home Prices Cool Buying Frenzy

June 6, 2013

Daily Real Estate News | Thursday, June 06, 2013

The recent rise in home prices has more investors concerned that it will be increasingly difficult to turn a profit from their rental investments. Nearly half of U.S. real estate investors say they expect to purchase fewer rental homes in the next year, according to a recent survey conducted by polling firm ORC International.

Just 10 months ago, the percentage of investors who said they intend to buy fewer homes stood at 30 percent—compared to 48 percent today. Only about 20 percent of the investors surveyed say they plan to buy more homes in the next year—a drop from the 39 percent who reported they intend to buy more homes last August.

More than half of the investors surveyed who own rental properties say they plan to hold them for at least five years or more, and 33 percent plan to hold them for 10 years or more.

“Higher prices are reducing returns on investment and investors are responding by cutting back on their purchasing plans until conditions sort out,” says Chris Clothier, a partner in MemphisInvest.com and Premier Property Management Group. “Fewer foreclosures, rising property values, and competition from hedge funds are making it tough to find good ideals on distressed sales. On the other hand, investors are planning to hold onto their rental properties for at least eight to 10 years and realize the benefits of rising rents and low vacancy rates. Cash flow is much more important than appreciation.”

Source

Filed Under Articles · Tagged with:  ·
2 Comments · Comment on this post

Forget ‘improving’ or ‘rebound’ – Fla. is ‘on fire’

March 8, 2013

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – March 8, 2013 – Lesley Deutch, senior vice president at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, said the “Florida market is on fire” in her latest update on the state’s housing market.

Deutch says she traveled the state recently and visited more than 20 communities. While recovery reports differ between Florida cities and urban areas, she reports five major trends:

1. Land prices. While the price of land continues to rise quickly statewide, Orlando feels the most pressure. Deutch says she saw some submarkets where “land and finished lot prices have now surpassed peak levels.” In Orlando, she sees developers buying raw land “just to gain a position and market share.”

2. Home prices. Some communities, such as Orlando and Naples, are seeing 1- to 2-percent new-home price increases monthly, Deutch says. The hallmarks of a seller’s market have also returned, such as lotteries. She expects a 2013 price increase of at least 10 percent in many Florida markets.

3. 55-plus market. Deutch reports a 20- to 25-percent jump in potential buyers interested in active adult living, according to builders in Southwest Florida. She also notes a boost in customer traffic in second- and third-tier markets.

4. Foreign buyers. It’s more than Miami, Deutch says. While in Orlando, she visited a sales office that had three active buyers: One from Brazil, one from Germany and one from China.

5. Foreclosures. While the state has a notoriously long foreclosure process, Deutch says banks are slowly releasing foreclosures. But investors continue to buy new foreclosures shortly after they hit the market.

© 2013 Florida Realtors®

Filed Under Articles · Tagged with:  ·
No Comments · Comment on this post

Interest-only mortgages begin to reappear

March 7, 2013

NEW YORK – March 7, 2013 – Well-off borrowers increasingly are turning to interest-only mortgages, the same ilk of loan that drove many homeowners into foreclosure in recent years. With this product, borrowers pay interest but no principal during the first few years of the loan. The monthly payments can be 30 percent to 40 percent lower than regular mortgages.

Interest-only mortgages accounted for about 14 percent of private mortgage originations from January 2012 through October, according to the latest data from real estate analytics firm CoreLogic. Under new mortgage rules by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, lenders that continue to provide interest-only mortgages starting in 2014 could face greater liability in lawsuits filed by borrowers who end up in foreclosure.

Lenders say they provide these loans only to lower-risk, affluent borrowers with significant assets.

Some borrowers find these mortgages are more flexible, but they do come with risks. Borrowers will not build equity in homes with interest-only payments, and a fall in housing prices could leave borrowers owing more on the home than it is worth.

Source: “The Return of Interest-Only Mortgages,” Marketwatch (03/01/13)

© Copyright 2013 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Filed Under Articles · Tagged with:  ·
1 Comment · Comment on this post

Short sale approvals pre-default are on the rise

March 1, 2013

MIAMI – March 1, 2013 – Banks are increasingly willing to approve short sales before borrowers go into foreclosure, a bright spot for struggling homeowners hoping to escape an underwater mortgage with the least damage to their finances.

About 27 percent of home sales in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade counties last year were short sales where the lender had not filed foreclosure papers against the homeowner, according to a distressed property report released today by the Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac.

It’s a turnaround from a time when borrowers had to default on their mortgages before persuading their bank to do a short sale, which is where the lender agrees to accept less for the home than what is owed on the mortgage. In South Florida, the average difference between the unpaid mortgage balance and non-foreclosure short sale price last year was $116,505, the RealtyTrac report said.

South Florida Realtor Joanne Epstein said the paradigm shift by banks is a reaction to federal rules that went into effect Nov. 1 allowing homeowners to qualify for a short sale even if they are current on payments. Banks also earn credits to satisfy their obligations under the $25 billion National Mortgage Settlement by approving short sales.

“Some people are so scared to not pay their mortgage because they don’t have bad credit and don’t want bad credit,” said Epstein, who works for the Keyes Company/Ragbir Team. “But they can’t afford to pay anymore and are just throwing out good money.”

The federal rule changes only affect loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Under the November changes, borrowers who are current on their mortgage but suffer a hardship such as a death, divorce, or a job change requiring them to move more than 50 miles from their home can be qualified for a short sale by their loan servicers without additional approval from Fannie or Freddie.

The RealtyTrac report notes that the number of South Florida short sales conducted in 2012 before a foreclosure was filed increased 30 percent from the previous year.

Statewide, 33 percent of all home sales last year were short sales completed before a foreclosure was filed. The average difference between the unpaid principal balance and non-foreclosure short sale price was $94,950.

Housing experts say short sales benefit homeowners and lenders. A homeowner suffers a lighter ding to his or her credit than if a foreclosure was completed. Lenders save the cost of a lengthy court proceeding.

An increase in short sales may also lead to a quicker housing recovery, said RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist. South Florida short sales had a higher average sale price last year – $133,816 – than bank-owned homes, which went for an average of $129,320.

“Allowing these homes to change hands more quickly will put them with new homeowners who have loans they can afford, which means they are more likely to maintain the property,” Blomquist said. “They’ll be more motivated to be responsible homeowners.”

Kevin Kent, a broker-associate with Platinum Properties in Palm Beach County, questions RealtyTrac’s numbers. He said the percentage of non-foreclosure short sales seems high and that many lenders remain stalwart about having homeowners go into default before considering a short sale.

“Until someone misses payments, the lenders aren’t paying a lot of attention,” Kent said.

But banks are more amenable in general to doing short sales because “they get hurt a lot less,” Kent said.

Copyright © 2013 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.), Kimberly Miller. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

Filed Under Articles · Tagged with:  ·
No Comments · Comment on this post

Investment firms buying up Florida foreclosures

February 19, 2013

EW YORK – Feb. 19, 2013 – Hedge funds and investment firms are buying up Florida foreclosures, beating out homebuyers and local flippers, while steering the state into what some fear is another real estate bubble.

The companies, including New York-based Blackstone Group and Lake Success Rentals, a partner of Toronto-based Tricon Capital Group, purchased an estimated 5,300 Florida homes last year that were in some stage of foreclosure, according to a report from RealtyTrac.

In Palm Beach County, RealtyTrac measured 425 purchases by firms buying multiple properties out of foreclosure and usually with the intent to rent them out until increasing property values can offer a substantial return on investment.

RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist said the buying trend accelerated around the second quarter of 2012 after billionaire business magnate Warren Buffett said he would buy up “a couple hundred thousand” single-family homes if he had a way to manage them.

But Blomquist warned that prices jacked up by the increased competition could lead to an artificial inflation.

“There is some potential for locally based housing price bubbles because of this almost frenzy on the part of these big-money folks to purchase as many properties as they can,” he said. “They’re paying cash, so it shouldn’t result in a lot of foreclosures, but it may be that down the road, they decide the gamble isn’t paying off and flood the market with properties.”

Florida’s biggest buyer last year was Malibu, Calif.-based American Homes for Rent, with more than 260 purchases, according to RealtyTrac. The Blackstone Group-related company THR Florida, LLC, had more than 160 purchases.

But both of those companies focused their efforts mostly in areas outside of South Florida.

Heavy hitters locally include Lake Success Rentals, based in Fort Lauderdale, and Southeast Florida Rental Housing (Sfrh SF Rental), which shares the same Fort Lauderdale address as Lake Success.

In July, Tricon Capital Group announced its partnership with Lake Success in an aggressive push to buy more distressed real estate. Tricon, which says it has $1.2 billion of assets under management, provides financing to local companies to buy the homes.

“I expect Miami to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the next decade, and the opportunity to purchase homes for rental housing in the surrounding areas at a fraction of peak prices and replacement cost was very attractive to me,” said Lake Success co-founder Barry Bergman in a news release announcing the partnership.

Last month, Tricon announced the purchase of 550 homes in Charlotte, N.C., for $26 million.

Blomquist said RealtyTrac’s study compared active foreclosures against sales deed data and may not include all bulk buyers in an area.

Don Cameron, a real estate investor who owns a South Florida franchise of We Buy Ugly Houses, said he bought more than 100 homes last year, many of which were at foreclosure auction, but he is not included in RealtyTrac’s report.

Also not included is a Greenwich, Conn.-based company called SRP SUB, LLC, which has bought about 40 Palm Beach County homes at foreclosure auction since November.

Cameron said he noticed an increase in competition from the big-time investment firms and hedge funds about eight months ago. His company buys homes, renovates them and then sells them. He said he’s lost out on homes because the larger firms pay asking price, or higher.

“They just have loads of money and are paying maximum dollars for the properties then renting them out,” Cameron said. “Some people are really inflating the market right now.”

Copyright © 2013 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.), Kimberly Miller. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

Filed Under Articles · Tagged with:  ·
No Comments · Comment on this post

Is real estate really on the mend in Florida?

February 18, 2013

ORLANDO, Fla. – Feb. 18, 2013 – Given the improvement in local and state residential real estate demonstrated by last week’s 2012 Florida Realtors statistics, there’s a lot of positive buzz, and possibly a bit of wishful thinking taking place among would-be sellers, Realtors, mortgage brokers, appraisers, developers and contractors.

But a reality check still shows a murky future: Up to a tenth of Florida homes, and almost a fifth of Manatee-Sarasota area homes are in some state of distress, raising concerns that a tsunami of bank sales could increase inventory, depress prices and lengthen closing times for residential sales in 2013 or even longer.

That view is “overly pessimistic,” said Florida Realtors chief economist John Tuccillo. But, he concedes, Florida has “a third of the nation’s ‘shadow inventory,’ a term used to define homes more than 90 days delinquent, or already in foreclosure, and that is very, very high.”

After the misery and displacement of the Great Recession, everyone, including President Obama, wants to believe that a broad-based real estate recovery is well and truly under way. In his State of the Union message, Obama announced that “the housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years, home purchases are up nearly 50 percent and construction is expanding again.” So far, so good.

But then, Obama put his finger right onto the tricky bit when he said, “Even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected. Too many families who have never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no. That’s holding our entire economy back, and we need to fix it.”

Banks and mortgage lenders – many of whom received federal assistance to the tune of $700 billion in the controversial 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which was designed to address the subprime mortgage crisis – are simply not lending to would-be buyers.

And maddeningly, sellers, frequently the very same banks themselves, clearly prefer cash buyers to avoid burdensome, messy and uncertain mortgage applications, and all-but-frozen secondary mortgage markets.

In fact, the big banks and other financial institutions that, in the heyday of mortgage madness, shoveled money out the door to “anyone with a heartbeat who could also fog a mirror,” are today part of the obstacle to a sustained real estate recovery, says Jack McCabe, CEO of McCabe Research & Consulting, a Florida-based real estate and economic analyst.

He pointed to the February 2012 joint state-federal settlement with the country’s five largest mortgage servicers Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, in which roughly $25 billion in relief was earmarked for distressed borrowers and various local and federal jurisdictions.

“Since the lawsuit has been settled, those banks are no longer holding back on foreclosures, which is one reason why real estate inventory levels were limited, and why prices rose in 2012,” said McCabe.

‘Best guess’

“Of the 475,000 completed Florida foreclosures since 2006, banks, realty funds and other financial players still hold an estimated 200,000 housing units,” said McCabe. That is roughly equivalent to the total number of 2012 statewide single-family home sales as reported on Monday by the Florida Realtors.

“There are currently 377,000-plus open foreclosures in Florida state courts, and 80 percent of them will become distressed transactions in the coming two to three years,” McCabe estimated. “The remainder will likely get loan modifications and possibly some relief from the lenders.”

But that is the tip of the iceberg, says McCabe.

“Another 550,000 additional Florida homeowners are 90 days-plus delinquent and thus subject to future foreclosure filing,” he said. “Taken together, there are 1.1 million distressed residential properties in the state.”

Given that the U.S. Census shows Florida has 9 million housing units in total, that means about 11 percent of the state’s housing stock is experiencing some level of distress.

The 11 percent distressed figure sounds “entirely plausible” to Anne Ray, Florida Housing Data Clearing House manager at the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida, the official repository for state housing data. Ray estimated more than 320,000 open foreclosures statewide, close to McCabe’s figure.

Ray also pointed out that the Manatee-Sarasota MSA, one of the state’s best performers in sales increases, “had a foreclosure rate of 13.77 percent as of September 2012, and a ‘pending’ rate of an additional 3.36 percent.” Taken together, it means more than 17 percent of the area’s homes are in some state of distress.

But Florida Realtors argue that those statewide figures might be double-counted.

According to Sept. 30, 2012, estimates from CoreLogic, a leading provider of real estate and financial data, 562,664 homes have mortgages delinquent by 90 days or more, 389,149 are in foreclosure and 36,284 are REO (Real Estate Owned) loans, property in the possession of a lender as a result of foreclosure, says Florida Realtors research economist Brad O’Connor.

“Loans that are counted in foreclosure and REO estimates can also be counted in the 90-day plus delinquency estimate, so it would be erroneous to add them together to obtain a count of distressed loans,” O’Connor said. “Unfortunately, the statistics we receive from CoreLogic do not provide us with any counts of how many loans are both 90-plus delinquent and in foreclosure/REO status.”

Worlds apart

One reason many banks are not lending is that with undigested and often unsavory inventory in their bellies, many may be at or near the regulatory threshold for the portion of their portfolios dedicated to residential lending, said McCabe.

Charles “Charlie” Brown III, chairman and CEO of Insignia Bank, a Sarasota-based community bank which includes Manatee in its core market, says “there’s a big difference between what the large institutions may be contemplating, and what’s going on at locally owned and operated community banks, where I’m seeing a flood of portfolio lending nationwide.”

“Insignia is making portfolio loans, typically five- to 15-year fixed mortgages, has excess capacity and could double its current mortgage portfolio on top of its total of $113 million, 200-plus loan portfolio,” Brown said.

A portfolio mortgage is one that the bank itself holds to maturity, as opposed to secondary mortgages that are usually sold to government-sponsored enterprises, including mortgage giants Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and others. That secondary market is where the squeeze, and most of the money and problems are, says Brown. He’s in a position to know, since he recently completed his second two-year term as one of 14 members of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s Community Bank Advisory Board in Washington, D.C.

Brown said that getting loan approvals in the secondary market where the GSE’s set the base standards is an ever-shifting and increasingly difficult process.

“They are continually tightening, tweaking and revising performance standards,” Brown said. “It’s very difficult to get a ‘conforming’ GSE mortgage and many banks have thrown up their hands altogether. I’m sensing both tension in the GSEs, as well as political pressure.”

But real estate attorney Anne Weintraub of Sarasota’s Band Weintraub says the larger banks are tired of being sued and are starting to cooperate with homeowners.

“They are tired of spending monies on attorneys to fight borrowers and realize owning a home is not ideal,” she said. “Most homes are abandoned, left in a state of disarray and the volume of abandoned homes is so enormous some banks don’t even realize they own the homes.”

In either scenario, banks can be both lenders and sellers, and typically hire the appraiser.

“Until the banks get the foreclosures off their books, they are sellers who want to get the best possible prices,” McCabe said. “Due to the legal wrangling, foreclosure sales in 2012 were basically ‘on the shelf’ while banks saw prices increasing, so now, after the settlement in a ‘perceived recovering market,’ I’d expect foreclosure filings and bank sales to accelerate this year and next.”

Bank-retained private appraisers also can be part of the problem, he contends, if their low valuation compared to the contract sales price inhibits lending.

Uncertainty surrounds issues

Additional flies in the recovery ointment are state and federal issues that may have adverse impacts on sustainable realty recovery.

In Tallahassee last week, a bill designed to speed up the foreclosure process passed the Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee on a 10-3 vote. Foreclosure monitoring service RealtyTrac reported that “House Bill 87 allows third-party lienholders to start foreclosure proceeding and rushes final judgment of foreclosure if a homeowner doesn’t file a defense. The bill aims to streamline and expedite the foreclosure process.” RealtyTrac termed the bill a controversial piece of legislation in Florida – the state that leads the nation in foreclosure filings.

Immediately, more than a half-dozen law firms and attorneys aligned to defeat the bill, including St. Petersburg’s Matt Weidner, Mark Stopa and Charles Gallagher, a member of Florida Consumer Justice Advocates, a self-funded consumer lobbying group.

“Our fear is the current due-process rights of homeowners are being further diluted by the provisions of HB 87 and if passed, this bill would further handicap homeowners from defending their foreclosure and provide banks with little judicial resistance from the speedy foreclosure of their homes,” said Gallagher.

Tuccillo, the Florida Realtors’ chief economist, says the bill has “its pros and cons, and while I’m not a raving fan of HB 87, I would like to see it passed.” He called the slow judicial process a primary contributing factor to the huge build-up of the state’s shadow inventory.

“It’s been a long, long time” that banks have held onto the troubled mortgages, and “it’s time to get all this garbage out of the way,” he said.

In Washington, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – the agency that holds primary responsibility for regulating consumer protection with regards to financial products and services in the United States – is viewed by some as part of the problem.

The CFPB, in its attempt to protect consumers, is creating a “bigger mess” as compliance and risk escalate with every new rule they put out, Charlie Brown says. CFPB sends out revised guidelines “almost every 30 days that are scaring off mortgage lenders due to litigation and compliance risk.” The situation with the secondary market and the CFPB is “extremely difficult, and very much worries me,” said Brown.

It could get uglier.

“About 40 percent of Floridian mortgage holders who are current on payments are nonetheless underwater,” meaning that their current mortgage balance is greater that the market value of their property, says McCabe. That portends an expanding horizon of potentially distressed properties coming onto the market.

Veteran Florida real estate analyst Lewis Goodkin agrees.

“There used to be a stigma attached to foreclosures, but no more,” Goodkin said. “I know people making good money, professionals, whose homes are underwater and they have decided to simply stop making payments and put the money into the bank instead.

“In one case, fully 21 months after not getting payments, the bank finally foreclosed. When banks unload property, they are so leery of mortgage availability that they only take cash offers, which means they sold at prices 20 percent lower than they normally could have,” he said.

Those buyers are either large specialized Wall Street funds that have been snapping up distressed property, or foreign buyers.

“Over half of the (2012) transactions in the Miami market were cash-only deals, which means that a normal person with a steady job is unable to compete, or even to buy at all,” Goodkin said.

So what do the numbers mean?

“Bottom line is that, if you only pay attention to Realtor data, everything looks great,” summarized McCabe. “However, if you remove the blinders and consider underlying financial market activity and data, there’s still trouble in paradise and it’ll take another two to three years to achieve a normal healthy real estate market.”

Goodkin echoes that time frame.

“It’s not a very dynamic situation and we’re not out of the woods yet, and probably won’t see a normally functioning market until mid-2014, unless we have a depression, God forbid,” he said.

Realtors and hopeful sellers and buyers who cheered 2012’s rose-tinted Florida housing report as an indicator of better things to come in the short term are “smoking Hopium,” said McCabe, adding tongue-in-cheek that he “trademarked the term” for the duration of the Great Recession.

© 2013 The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.), Stephen Frater, The Bradenton Herald. Distributed by MCT Information Services

Filed Under Articles · Tagged with:  ·
No Comments · Comment on this post

Next Page »

Bottom