Foreclosures Continue to Run at Breakneck Speed

Can we truly expect our economy to return to LONG-TERM health if the housing market remains under severe pressure? I think not. While Wall Street rebounds, Main Street continues to lose value. How so? Home foreclosures continue to run at breakneck speed.

Bloomberg reports, U.S. Foreclosure Filings Set Third Record-High in Five Months:

Foreclosure filings in the U.S. climbed to a record for the third time in five months in July as falling home prices and the recession left more homeowners unable to keep up payments or refinance.

A total of 360,149 properties received a default or auction notice or were seized last month, according to data seller RealtyTrac Inc. One in 355 households got a filing, the highest monthly rate in RealtyTrac records dating to January 2005, the Irvine, California-based company said in a statement.

“We’re in a deep hole,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at Chicago-based Mesirow Financial Inc., said in an interview. “There is a whole new wave of foreclosures tied to the cyclical dynamics of the economy.”

What is this ongoing foreclosure activity doing to home prices? It’s not good.

The median price of an existing single-family house dropped 15.6 percent to $174,100 in the second quarter, the most in records dating to 1979, the National Association of Realtors said yesterday. Almost one-quarter of U.S. mortgage holders are underwater, property data firm said Aug. 11.

What about the mortgage modification programs which were designed to stem this tide of foreclosures? In speaking with our friends at 12th Street Capital, who have canvassed a number of the large mortgage servicing operations, we have learned that successful mortgage modifications are typically only occurring with mortgages that are delinquent 30 days or less. After that, homeowners are increasingly inclined to ‘walk away’ from homes which are further underwater (mortgage balance exceeds home value).  In fact, Bloomberg highlights:

“It has been more profitable to put a home in foreclosure than restructure the loan,” Swonk said. “The only thing that helps is forgiveness of principal, and there is little willingness to do that.”

The greatest surge in foreclosure activity remains in those states which have already experienced enormous problems. The top 5 being Nevada, California, Arizona, Florida, and Utah. That said, our entire economy is intricately linked and these markets (especially California) cover a large percentage of our population.

What are the implications for this ongoing foreclosure activity?

1. Banks will continue to keep credit standards very tight.

2. The new issue securitization markets for these assets will remain virtually non-existent.

3. State tax revenues will remain under pressure as property taxes received continue to decline. As a result, look for continued cuts in services and likely tax increases.

4. Retail sales will not have a meaningful rebound as the consumer wealth effect tied to home values remains under pressure. This morning Wal-Mart reported flat profit on lower sales. Additionally, overall retail sales were just reported to decline .1 (ex-auto sales, retail sales declined .6) versus a projected gain of .8. This is an UGLY number!! As a result, do not look for a big rebound in inventories which would drive GDP.

5. Unless and until banks fully acknowledge the true value of the assets tied to these home mortgages, the financial system is kidding itself (and doing a very good job of it) to think that our economy will have a true robust recovery.

About Larry Doyle 522 Articles

Larry Doyle embarked on his Wall Street career in 1983 as a mortgage-backed securities trader for The First Boston Corporation. He was involved in the growth and development of the secondary mortgage market from its near infancy.

After close to 7 years at First Boston, Larry joined Bear Stearns in early 1990 as a mortgage trader. In 1993, Larry was named a Senior Managing Director at the firm. He left Bear to join Union Bank of Switzerland in late 1996 as Head of Mortgage Trading.

In 1998, after 15 years of trading and precipitated by Swiss Bank’s takeover of UBS, Larry moved from trading to sales as a senior salesperson at Bank of America. His move into sales led him to the role as National Sales Manager for Securitized Products at JP Morgan Chase in 2000. He was integrally involved in developing the department, hiring 40 salespeople, and generating $300 million in sales revenue. He left JP Morgan in 2006.

Throughout his career, Larry eagerly engaged clients and colleagues. He has mentored dozens of junior colleagues, recruited at a number of colleges and universities, and interviewed hundreds. He has also had extensive public speaking experience. Additionally, Larry served as Chair of the Mortgage Trading Committee for the Public Securities Association (PSA) in the mid-90s.

Larry graduated Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1983 from the College of the Holy Cross.

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1 Comment on Foreclosures Continue to Run at Breakneck Speed

  1. Under President Obama’s new approach, property owners should not be removed from a home, but permitted to stay and pay rent. If someone can pay rent, than that same person can pay a mortgage payment if structured correctly. The government is providing $8,000 for first time buyers, so why can’t the government pay part of the payment and have the borrower repay the government in the future??

    Instead of a rental payment, let the homeowner make the payment toward the mortgage and the government can cover the difference in a mortgage assistance program which will be repaid over time.
    Here is an example of how it could work.

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