by ilene - May 9th, 2011 2:09 pm
Courtesy of Trader Mark at Fund My Mutual Fund
The same economists shocked by the original housing crash (prices can’t go up forever?), now appear to be in the fetal position as the much too obvious second leg of the downturn has arrived. While I do have an economist degree, living in the locale experiencing a 1 state Depression [Jan 27, 2011: Metro Detroit Home Prices Back to 1994 Levels...Before Accounting for Inflation] had me much more negative than those who live in the ivory towers of Manhattan or D.C.. I wrote a few years ago about a few articles that also opened my eyes to what was going on out there in the rest of the country. [May 30, 2005 - Fortune: Riding the Boom] [Sep 11, 2006: Option ARMs - Nightmare Mortgages] Hence in late 07, I showed with simple math why we were in for a doozy of a drop in the housing market. [Dec 6, 2007: What Should Median Housing Prices be Today?]
As you can see from the mid/late 1970s to 2001/2002 the ratio was consistent in a tight range between 2.6x to 3.0x. Essentially this means the median home price in this country was 2.6x – 3.0x median household income. And it’s been right around 2.8x for most of that time. That’s 30 years….
Then in 2002+, we had innovation…. great innovation… and 1% interest rates. Easy money. No mortgage regulation. Happy times. And crazy housing prices that detached from reality. In 2006 at the height of ‘innovation’ (where were these politicians 1 year ago? seriously), the ratio went "off" the chart, it appears 4.0x. After the ‘correction’ we’ve had, that ratio has fallen all the way to…. 3.8x.
In July 2006 at the height of insanity the median price of a home was $230,200
It has already fallen in less than a year (October 2006) to $207,800
Pain over, correction done – time to party. Right? Wrong.
What are median incomes nowadays? As of 2006 the median household income was $48,201.
$48,201 x 2.8 ratio
by ilene - October 14th, 2010 4:02 pm
The foreclosure crisis is heating up. Will it all come crashing down, or can we find a way out of the mess? **This is Part 3 in a series giving a basic explanation of the current foreclosure fraud crisis. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Right now the foreclosure system has shut down as a result of the banks’ own voluntary actions. There is currently a debate over whether or not the current foreclosure fraud crisis could explode into a systemic risk problem that imperils the larger financial sector and economy, and if so what that would look like.
No matter what happens, the uncertainty about notes and what is currently going on with the foreclosure crisis is terrible for the economy. Getting to the heart of this problem so that negotiations can be worked out is important for getting the economy going again. There is little reason to trust whatever the servicers and the banks conclude at the end of the month, and the market will know that. Only the government can credibly clear the air as to what the legal situation is with the notes and the securitizations.
But I want to get some unlikely but dangerous scenarios on the table in which this blows up. Bangs, not whimpers. The kind where Congress is pressured to act over a weekend. I had a discussion with Adam Levitin about how this could explode into a systemic problem.
Title Insurance Market Breaks Down
The first scenario involves title insurance, specifically a situation wherein title insurers decide to take a month off from writing title insurance even on performing and current loans to investigate what is going on with note transfers.
If that happened, there would be no mortgage sales (except for those involving cash) in the country. The system would simply stop. Everyone with an interest, from realtors to Wall Street to construction to huge sections of the economy, would face a major crisis from this short-term pinch. There would be a call for Congress to step in immediately.
by ilene - October 14th, 2010 3:29 pm
Mike Konczal defines the key players in the foreclosure fraud mess. **This is Part 2 in a series giving a basic explanation of the current foreclosure fraud crisis. You can find Part 1 here.
What is the note?
The SEIU has a campaign: Where’s the Note? Demand to see your mortgage note. It’s worth checking out. But first, what is this note? And why would its existence be important to struggling homeowners, homeowners in foreclosure, and investors in mortgage backed securities?
There’s going to be a campaign to convince you that having the note correctly filed and produced isn’t that important (see, to start, this WSJ editorial from the weekend). It will argue that this is some sort of useless cover sheet for a TPS form that someone forgot to fill out. That is profoundly incorrect.
Independent of the fraud that was committed on our courts, the current crisis is important because the note is a crucial document for every party to a mortgage. But first, let’s define what a mortgage is. A mortgage consists of two documents, a note and a lien:
The note is the IOU; it’s the borrower’s promise to pay. The mortgage, or the lien, is just the enforcement right to take the property if the note goes unpaid. The note is crucial.
Why does this matter? Three reasons, reasons that even the Wall Street Journal op-ed page needs to take into account. The first is that the note is the evidence of the debt. If it isn’t properly in the trust, then there isn’t clear evidence of the debt existing.
And it can’t be a matter of “let’s go find it now!” REMIC law, which governs the securitization, is really specific here. The securitization can’t get new assets after 90 days without a tax penalty, and it can’t get defaulted assets at all without a major tax penalty. Most of these notes are way past 90 days and will be in a defaulted state.
This is because these parts of the mortgage-backed security were supposed to be passive entities. They are supposed to take in money through mortgage payments on one end and pay it out to bondholders on the other end — hence their exemption from lots…
by ilene - September 26th, 2010 5:49 pm
Courtesy of John Lounsbury writing at Credit Writedowns
How far are we from a bottom in U.S. home prices? There are many estimates that there could be another 10% or more for the national average and median prices to decline. This author estimated that 2010 had a most probable decline around 11% from December 2009, with further declines possible in 2011. Little decline has actually been seen as prices are quite near where they were nine months ago. However, in the past couple of months predictions of further price declines have increased. Two weeks ago I pointed out that the outlook for home prices may be degrading.
20% Price Decline to the Bottom?
Barry Ritholtz provides the following chart, originally from the New York Times, but updated for The Big Picture by Steve Barry.
For larger image, click on graph.
This decline is certainly within the possible limits I have discussed earlier in the year (see here and here) but the projection curve drawn by Steve Barry shows a much more gradual drop to the bottom than I have envisioned. I estimate that he is showing another 3.5 to 4 years to get 90% of the way there and 5-6 years to fully bottom out. My thinking has been that the drop to the final bottom will be much quicker, driven by the weight of foreclosures over the next one to two years. However, current market conditions are causing me to reconsider.
Could Housing Go Below “Normal”?
What has not been considered by either Barry or me is the recurrence of another depression for housing, such as occurred from WW I to WW II. What sort of economic disaster would cause home prices to decline 55% to 60% from here? That is what would happen if the decline reproduced the 1920 bottom.
Or, asking a different question: What sort of economic disaster would result if home prices declined 55% to 60% from here? In such severe deflation, most mortgagors would default and every mortgage lender would be insolvent. There would be no future TARP or other shenanigan that could accommodate that eventuality. This will be discussed further later in the article.
Under Water Mortgages
Calculated Risk has an excellent post about underwater mortgages. CR states that 4.1 million homeowners owe 50% or more than their house…
by ilene - August 30th, 2010 4:35 pm
Courtesy of Jr. Deputy Accountant
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t inflate the housing bubble back again…
The Obama administration plans to set up an emergency loan program for the unemployed and a government mortgage refinancing effort in the next few weeks to help homeowners after home sales dropped in July, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said.
“The July numbers were worse than we expected, worse than the general market expected, and we are concerned,” Donovan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program yesterday. “That’s why we are taking additional steps to move forward.”
The administration will begin a Federal Housing Authority refinancing effort to help borrowers who are struggling to pay their mortgages, and will start an emergency homeowners’ loan program for unemployed borrowers so they can stay in their homes, Donovan said.
“We’re going to continue to make sure folks have access to home ownership,” he said.
These additional steps are really starting to hurt, when does it end? Oh duh, it ends when the rest of the world gets smart and realizes that we’re abusing our printing press. Obv.
by ilene - August 19th, 2010 5:43 pm
COULD 62 MILLION HOMES BE FORECLOSURE-PROOF?
Courtesy of ELLEN BROWN, at Web of Debt
Over 62 million mortgages are now held in the name of MERS, an electronic recording system devised by and for the convenience of the mortgage industry. A California bankruptcy court, following landmark cases in other jurisdictions, recently held that this electronic shortcut makes it impossible for banks to establish their ownership of property titles—and therefore to foreclose on mortgaged properties. The logical result could be 62 million homes that are foreclosure-proof.
Mortgages bundled into securities were a favorite investment of speculators at the height of the financial bubble leading up to the crash of 2008. The securities changed hands frequently, and the companies profiting from mortgage payments were often not the same parties that negotiated the loans. At the heart of this disconnect was the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS, a company that serves as the mortgagee of record for lenders, allowing properties to change hands without the necessity of recording each transfer.
MERS was convenient for the mortgage industry, but courts are now questioning the impact of all of this financial juggling when it comes to mortgage ownership. To foreclose on real property, the plaintiff must be able to establish the chain of title entitling it to relief. But MERS has acknowledged, and recent cases have held, that MERS is a mere “nominee”—an entity appointed by the true owner simply for the purpose of holding property in order to facilitate transactions. Recent court opinions stress that this defect is not just a procedural but is a substantive failure, one that is fatal to the plaintiff’s legal ability to foreclose.
That means hordes of victims of predatory lending could end up owning their homes free and clear—while the financial industry could end up skewered on its own sword.
The latest of these court decisions came down in California on May 20, 2010, in a bankruptcy case called In re Walker, Case no. 10-21656-E–11. The court held that MERS could not foreclose because it was a mere nominee; and that as a result, plaintiff Citibank could not collect on its claim. The judge opined:
Since no evidence of MERS’ ownership of the underlying note has been offered, and other courts have concluded that MERS does not own the underlying notes, this court is convinced that MERS had no
by ilene - June 23rd, 2010 3:13 am
This is a bit like watching rival Mexican drug gangs fight it out for control over a border town – you hope they kill each other and it really doesn’t matter if neither of them "win".
From the New York Times:
On one side are the bankers, who say borrowers should be liable for what they owe. On the other side are real estate agents, who say those who lost their houses should not be so burdened by debt that they cannot move on.
The differences have real financial consequences: bankers want to collect on billions of dollars in outstanding loans; real estate agents want as many people as possible to return to the housing market.
For the first time, the debate is spilling into the realm of law making, with state legislators in California considering a bill that would redefine the obligations of many defaulting homeowners.
Obviously the bankers are "in the right" as far as wanting homeowners to meet their obligations. Strategic default is cute, and in some cases it is economically the smart move, although these are adults that signed their name to a piece of paper so there should be a consequence. That said, in many instances, these loans were grotesque characitures of fair contracts so it’s hard to empathize with the creditors.
The realtors on other hand will make the case that the silver lining of strategic default is that at least it keeps properties turning over and the real estate market moving. They are jackals and a rapid turnover of homes with less consequence to the defaulter leads to buy and sell commissions, which is really all they’re after.
California Bankers versus Realtors to me is like if the Hells Angels and the Mongols fought for territorial control over a gas station bathroom. Whatever.
Have at it, boys.
by ilene - May 19th, 2010 10:15 pm
Courtesy of Jr. Deputy Accountant
But hey, it doesn’t matter because everything is just fine, right?
Glad to see America took our advice…
The number of homeowners who missed at least one mortgage payment surged to a record in the first quarter of the year, a sign that the foreclosure crisis is far from over.
More than 10 percent of homeowners had missed at least one mortgage payment in the January-March period, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday. That number was up from 9.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year and 9.1 percent a year earlier.
Those figures are adjusted for seasonal factors. For example, heating bills and holiday expenses tend to push up mortgage delinquencies near the end of the year. Many of those borrowers become current on their loans again by spring.
Without adjusting for seasonal factors, the delinquency numbers dropped, as they normally do from the winter to spring.
More than 4.6 percent of homeowners were in foreclosure, also a record. But that number, which is not adjusted for seasonal factors, was up only slightly from the end of last year.
Bloodletting is not an overnight process and we’ve got plenty more infected garbage to drain. Keep it up, kids!
by ilene - May 1st, 2010 3:11 pm
Just over two and one half years ago, I began to work with homeowners facing foreclosure. At that time, there were two or three websites that had any information on foreclosure prevention and any viable defenses to foreclosure. Since that time, starting in late 2008, and throughout 2009, there has been an explosion of websites featuring foreclosure information. This has been both good and bad for the homeowner facing foreclosure; good because homeowners have been able to learn much about their situation, and know that they were not alone, but bad because there is much “inaccurate” information about foreclosure defenses being presented. This article is intended to help the homeowner sort the good and the bad.
I write this knowing that I am going to receive significant negative feedback from many different sources. Some will be disputing what I write because they have heard of people with positive results. Some will argue because for them, the distribution of such information is part of their business model and the more people who know that what they “preach” is not effective, the less they will make. Others will disagree because I am at direct odds with certain people that they follow, ones who have high visibility, but have not stepped into court rooms in years. More will even argue that I side with the lenders.
There is a particular motivation for writing this. I receive phone calls daily and weekly from homeowners who have read these from sites, and are thinking that if they just do one thing or another, their problems will “magically” disappear. Others are Pro Se litigants, doing their own lawsuits instead of hiring attorneys. They want me to review their filings, advise them where they are wrong, or do Predatory Lending Examinations. I refuse to do this because I will not work with a person who does not have an attorney, and I am not an attorney and cannot give legal advice. The sad part is that in their filings, I can immediately spot so many errors that it is obvious that they should just start packing to move.
by ilene - March 9th, 2010 5:02 pm
Courtesy of Mish
We’ve now come full circle. Instead of trying to get people to stay in their homes, Obama is willing to pay them to leave. Please consider Program Will Pay Homeowners to Sell at a Loss.
In an effort to end the foreclosure crisis, the Obama administration has been trying to keep defaulting owners in their homes. Now it will take a new approach: paying some of them to leave.
This latest program, which will allow owners to sell for less than they owe and will give them a little cash to speed them on their way, is one of the administration’s most aggressive attempts to grapple with a problem that has defied solutions.
Under the new program, the servicing bank, as with all modifications, will get $1,000. Another $1,000 can go toward a second loan, if there is one. And for the first time the government would give money to the distressed homeowners themselves. They will get $1,500 in “relocation assistance.”
Short sales are “tailor-made for fraud,” said Mr. Lawler, a former executive at the mortgage finance company Fannie Mae.
Under the new federal program, a lender will use real estate agents to determine the value of a home and thus the minimum to accept. This figure will not be shared with the owner, but if an offer comes in that is equal to or higher than this amount, the lender must take it.
Big Shell Game
Diana Olick describes the situation perfectly in Mortgage Principal Writedown Won’t Save Housing.
And so it begins. Big gun lawmakers are making the move toward principal writedowns as the last resort to save the housing market.
The problem is prices. Home prices have fallen so far in the hardest hit areas, the areas where the bulk of the troubled loans are, that banks would have to write down principal 30 to 50 percent to put borrowers back in the green. Accounting rules require that banks write down the value of those loans on their books, and experts tell me that if banks really accounted for all the losses in the home loan market, they’d all be insolvent.
That’s why the Obama Administration has created this kind of shell game in the first place.
I stole that shell game idea from