The Housing Crisis is Like Hurricane Katrina

There were four back-to-back panel sessions on the topic of Foreclosures at Real Estate Connect this morning. Here are some sound bites and quotes.

There are 25,000 homes per MONTH in California that are going back to the lender.  This is going to create a glut of housing inventory for many months into the forseeable future.  The percentage of loan modifications that are re-defaulting and going into foreclosure is high.  Estimates are 40% or higher.

In Cali, the very low end price range REO homes are now selling to long term investors who are are able to put a renter in that house and make their cash flow goals. 

There are an estimated 400,000 people living in their homes for free in California right now.  Lenders are stalling the foreclosure process because there simply is not enough people working in the loss mitigation departments to process all the paperwork.

There is a huge problem nationwide with listing agents who are taking short sale listings and have no clue on how to help the homeowner navigate through the short sale process.

Quote: “This [the housing crisis] is like Hurricane Katrina.”

Question to the panelists: How can consumers who are facing foreclosure help themselves?
Answer from Frances Flynn Thorsen, “Stay away from Realtors.” 

Jillayne here. That answer brought forth many laughs and suprised blurts of shock.  I personally think this took quite a lot of moxie to say in a room filled with Realtors. The point Frances was trying to make was that not all homeowners who are in default want to sell their home!  When real estate agents stick with only a single mindset that selling is the ONLY option, they are doing a grave disservice to their clients.  Frances said it is imperative that agents connect homeowners with either Acorn or NACA or some other HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agency that can effectively negotiate with the lender, and to make sure the homeowner receives legal counsel from attorneys who specialize in consumer protection law, which is something they can find at NACA. 

There are very few loan modifications being granted if the homeowner is seriously underwater. The example given was $2,000 in monthly income and $11,000 in monthly debts.  No loan mod for that consumer because the chances of re-defaulting are way too high.  This homeowner may be better served through the foreclosure process.

The loan modifications that are granted are often done by lowering the interest rate on the note to say, 3% for a fixed period of time such as three years, but with NO principal reduction. 

Jillayne again.  I say this practice may lead to a build up of shadow inventory that could end up hitting the market in 2011 and further drawing out the housing recession into 2012.

Short sales in Florida are a complete waste of time.  Buyers in Florida are looking at sellers with equity or REOs ONLY.  Banks are only now starting to dump their REOs by lowering the prices in order to get them off their boooks.

Florida should WISH FOR another Florida bank failure because then the other banks will become extremely nervous about the bank regulators poking around and will begin to get real with dropping the prices on REOs in order to clear out their inventory, especially the closer we get to the end of a quarter.

“Real estate agents have a moral and fiduciary duty to our clients.  We have a duty to try and maintain values.  We should be encouraging sellers to help hold the value by offering to “buy down” the interest rate instead of lowering the sales price.”

Jillayne here again.  That quote came from LJ Jennings, a real estate broker/owner.  I’m not so sure that holding prices artificially high could pass a fiduciary test.  This may NOT be in the client’s best interest.

VERY interesting insight from a data analyst. She said some companies would rather stick with data that their analysts have been using INSTEAD OF showing NEW data to their end users….because then their existing analysts would be proven wrong and the company doesn’t want to deal with that. 

Take aways:

  • Banks will begin to “throttle out” their inventory quarter to quarter,
  • A lot more big pools of scratch and dent (loans with problems) loans will start to be sold off in bulk to investors
  • Lenders will slow down the default process for due diligence and accounting reasons
  • In the second have of 2008, 100 billion (correction: dollars) in loans will reset.  If ONLY 13% default, this is a huge number of homes that will impact inventory levels for the years to follow.
  • Hundreds of thousands of Alt A loans will reset in 2009.
  • Foreclosure relief bill is a little too late.  Our problem right now is that lenders are afraid to lend on a declining asset and buyers are afraid to buy.  The bill does more to shore up confidence in Fannie and Freddie than anything else.
  • There ARE options for a homeowner in default who does not want to sell.
  • Foreclosure is only a temporary part of a person’s life.  Life goes on.
  • Loan modifications and short sales are being done faster through banks that have a history of predatory lending (this is a concept I’ve been teaching for 8 years now.)

I have an entire set of notes from the attorney who spoke on the liability issues agents face when listing REO homes. I’ll have to do a separate blog article on that for you. 

Are Short Sales Affecting our Home Prices?


This downturn in real estate is so much different than the one we ‘older than dirt’ agents experienced in 1980’s. Then, with inflation over 12% and interest rates over 20%, we knew why we were in so much trouble and saw only long term effects since it was a problem with our national economy. We were using rubies, horses, businesses, anything we could use for exchange for a down payment and doing ‘mushroom closings’ where the sale wasn’t recorded to avoid paragraph 17 of the note to kick in. (before you judge, let me mention that this was with attorney guidance!)

This time, it’s been very very confusing since our national economy is healthier, inflation appears under control and here in the Puget Sound area, there is low unemployment and signing bonuses are again being offered for qualified high tech employees.

So, the big question here in the northwest (I’m only referring to the NW, specifically King, Pierce and Snohomish County and of course, there’s Wenatchee), is, is this a short term or a long term correction.

And, is the effect of the short sale inventory going to be a drag on our home prices. There are phenomonal discounts right now in short sale properties. However, are they really affecting the price of normally marketed properties? Do buyers see these short sale properties as good homes for them to purchase, or are we only attracting fix and flippers and other investors to these properties.

The nwmls statistics show that in King County, there are 71 short sales, trustee, or foreclosures in the entire county. Of these, 27 are active, with an average price of $397,000 and average days on the market of 134.

21 are under contract either sti or pending and only 1 is sold in the last 6 months. So, with 27 active, and 22 sold or under contract in all of King County, compared to 8355 active, 1731 sti or pending and 10126 sold in the last 6 months, is there really a measurable effect? or is this just a temporary hiccup?

Foreclosure or Buyer Remorse?

Well, I promised I’d report in if I saw anything really good sitting around with no offers, or signs of foreclosure woes, on “the Eastside”.

As to good properties sitting around with no offers…not!  I showed a few properties on Sunday, turned around and one went STI two hours later.  Of course, very close to Microsoft.  A few others left over there, but doubt they will last.  Even then, those were not of the quality I would recommend.  The best of day was a For Sale by Owner and not in the MLS at all.  Interesting day.  Literally only 5 to show from Juanita to Issaquah in the price range.

But today, I was shocked!!  An agent asked me, “What does this mean ‘commission may be modified by lender'”? I said, “WHERE?”  They said Kirkland.  I said, Oh No!

Then I took a closer look.  Who the heck bought that piece of crap at that price last year?! What lender did 100% funding in there?  Don’t they know there was a huge suit against the builder for basically irresolvable drainage problems?

That’s not a foreclosure.  That’s someone who walked into the bank and said, “Here!  You can HAVE it BACK!

Now don’t ask me where it is.  I can’t point fingers, but I promised to tell you if I saw “a short sale on the Eastside”, so here’s the first one I’m seeing.  Based on the purchase date, there’s no way this should be selling for less today.  But it will.  Someone overpaid for it back then, never should have bought in there with the problems, and some lender wasn’t paying attention.  Some Buyer Agent as well.  Buyer Agents should have stripes so we can “strip them of their stripes” when they are responsible for someone buying a distressed property, for too much money, with zero down.

When you didn’t spend a dime on it, no downpayment, stacked closing costs, your credit was already crap which is why it was subprime…why not just walk away if you decide you don’t want it?

That wasn’t a foreclosure…it was a RETURN! No need to ask for their money back.  They had not a penny invested in the first place.  Don’t like it…walk away and bring the key to the lender.

That one was easy to figure out.  But let’s keep our eyes open, because even though there seems to be a frenzy with three offers on one unit in that condo conversion up in Bothell on Sunday, it is definitely time to proceed with extreme caution.  Make sure the value is there, before you buy.