Friday, May 28, 2010


Now that the federal Home Buyer’s Tax Credit has expired, many thought home-buying activities would dry up. Unlike last winter, the credit has neither been expanded nor extended, and industry watchers have worried that home prices might see a “double dip” without the stimulative effect of the money.
There’s no denying the program has been successful. But the free lunch has ended and reality is staring us right in the face. Where will the housing market head from here?
I predict a continued slow recovery in prices and activity, and I have three reasons for believing it:
● The overall economy is improving. Slowly but surely, people are feeling a little better about their own financial situation, and that translates directly into spending. The more spending that occurs, the better the economy. The better the economy, the more jobs that are created. The more jobs that are out there, the more houses that sell.
That’s an oversimplification of an extremely complex situation, and we still have a long way to go, but things are definitely better than they were a year ago, and most believe better times are ahead.
Interest rates are still extremely attractive. And I’m not talking about some weird adjustable rate instrument that is tied to an offering of inter-bank rates in London. I’m referring to the all-American 30-year, fixed-rate loan that our parents had on the house in which we grew up.
Most Americans are firmly convinced that a single-family house in a good neighborhood in a growing community is a solid investment, and they are right. And if you can lock in a good price with a low fixed interest rate, you add strength to your financial position by being able to predict your housing expense into the future.
● And what about the loss of the tax credit? I don’t think it will matter.
The housing market is still soft enough to absorb the financial hit. By that I mean a savvy shopper who isn’t afraid to negotiate can expect to buy a house in this market at enough of a discount to offset the lost tax credit.
Sellers are painfully aware that price sells houses, and I expect builders to offer their own version of a “home buyer’s discount” as a way to incentivize the home-buying public. Owners of resale homes will follow suit.
Is that a cheap and crass marketing gimmick designed to fool the public into thinking they are getting a benefit that they truly are not receiving? Yes.
Will it work? Yes.
John Adams is an author, broadcaster and investor. He answers real estate questions on radio station WGKA (920 AM) Iin Atlanta. For more real estate information or to make a comment, visit

Monday, May 24, 2010

Buy and Bail

FHA and Fannie Mae “Buy and Bail” rules have been in effect for several months and this is old news to many. This information comes as a reminder.
Because values have declined in most areas making it difficult to refinance, many home owners have decided to purchase another home while their credit is still good claiming they will rent their existing home. Once their new home closes, they then allow their existing home to go into foreclosure and a new term has emerged, “Buy and Bail”.
How Does Buy and Bail Work? Buy and Bail involves lying. It typically involves drawing up a phony rental agreement and presenting this false documentation to the lender. That is mortgage fraud. The FBI defines mortgage fraud as “any material misstatement, misrepresentation or omission relied upon by an underwriter or lender to fund, purchase or insure a loan.”
Here are the steps that a home owner would follow:
First, the home owner decides that (for whatever reason), his home no longer suits his purposes.
Since the home owner cannot obtain a new mortgage loan after a short sale or foreclosure, he sets out to find a home to buy before going into default on the existing mortgage.
A purchase offer is written on the new home and the home owner/buyer submits a loan application.
The lender requests a rental agreement to show that a tenant will move into the home owners old home and make rental payments.
Home owner gets a friend to sign a rental agreement, even though the friend has not intention of moving into or renting the home owner’s old home.
The lender approves home owners new mortgage and funds the loan
The home owner never makes a payment on his old home. A Notice of Default is filed and the home goes into foreclosure, subsequently going back to the bank.
The home owner’s credit is ruined, but he doesn’t care because he has already bought a new home and has no intentions of moving for a long time.
As a result of buy and bail practices, Fannie Mae guidelines now require buyers to qualify for mortgages on both homes at loan inception, unless the existing home has plenty of equity. That’s because a home owner with plenty of equity would be foolish to walk away from it.
Fannie Mae’s Guidelines for converting a principal residence to a second home or investment property is as follows:
If a customer is purchasing a new home prior to selling their existing home they must qualify with both payments (PITI, interest, taxes and insurance). If the equity is less than 30% (market value less than amount owed) 6 months reserves are required. If equity position is 30% or greater 2 months reserves are required. Note: Only 75% of the rental income can be used, even then, for qualifying purposes. An executed 12 months lease and proof that a security deposit in the customers’ account is required.
If a customer is renting out their existing residence the borrower must also qualify with both payments. Rental income can only be used if the equity position is equal to or greater than 30%.
If a client’s pending sale for the existing home blows up before the closing of their new purchase, or will not occur prior to the new home closing the rules are a little different but similar to the first explanation. The payments for the existing home are not required for qualifying purposes if reserves can be documented along with a copy of an executed sales contract and confirmation of all financing contingencies are provided.
FHA’s Guidelines now require buyers who are legitimately purchasing a home and converting their existing home to a rental either qualify for both loans or have 25% equity in their present home. Exception—Relocation:s: The home-buyer is relocating with a new employer, or being transferred by the current employer to an area not within reasonable and locally recognized commuting distance. A properly executed lease agreement (i.e., a lease signed by the homebuyer and the lessee) of at least one year’s duration after the loan is closed is required. FHA recommends that underwriters also obtain evidence of the security deposit and/or evidence the first month’s rent was paid to the homeowner. and

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shadow Market

The housing market is facing swelling ranks of homeowners who are seriously delinquent but have yet to lose their homes, and this is threatening a new wave of foreclosures that could hit just as the real estate market has begun to stabilize.
As these foreclosed properties add to the supply of homes for sale, they could undercut housing prices, which have increased modestly through December, according to the most recent figures in the S&P/Case-Shiller home prices index. That rise partly reflected a slowdown in the flow of foreclosed homes onto the market.
The rate at which J.P. Morgan Chase seized properties, for example, peaked in the middle of 2008 and fell steadily last year, according to a February investor report. But the bank expects repossessions to increase this year, nearly doubling to 45,000 by the fourth quarter.
"Some of the positive housing data may not be signaling a true turning point, as many servicers are holding back on foreclosures and the related houses are not yet being offered for sale," said Diane Westerback, a managing director at Standard & Poor's. Westerback said it could take 33 months to clear the backlog.
Data released Thursday by RealtyTrac illustrate the dynamic. While banks repossessed fewer homes in February than a month earlier, borrowers continued to fall behind on their payments, adding to the inventory of properties headed toward foreclosure that have yet to be put on the market, said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac's spokesman.
"Just looking at the numbers, we would expect there to be a bigger percentage of properties" repossessed by banks by now, he said.
This "shadow market" reflects the increasing lag between defaults and foreclosures. Many lenders are struggling to keep up with the overwhelming number of borrowers who can't make their payments, and they're reluctant to rush repossessed homes onto the market when prices are depressed. The borrowers in trouble now are, for the most part, people who have better credit and safer loans and have become delinquent because they've lost their jobs or are dealing with other economic setbacks, economists said.

More than 75 percent of the borrowers who are now seriously delinquent -- meaning they have missed at least three monthly payments -- have traditional prime loans, according to First American CoreLogic. Most of these borrowers have not made a mortgage payment in six months.
These borrowers are among the most difficult to help. Homeowners with economic troubles such as extended unemployment often cannot make even reduced mortgage payments. And the longer borrowers stay delinquent, the more difficult it is to fashion a mortgage relief plan for them. Some lenders are giving distressed borrowers more time to see whether they can modify the terms of their loans.
Over the past year, the number of foreclosed homes going up for sale has declined. Distressed properties made up just 38 percent of purchases in January, compared with the 49 percent peak in March 2009, according to the National Association of Realtors. That helped the inventory of homes on the market fall to a 7.8-month supply, close to the figure during normal times and down from more than 11 months in July 2008. But as prices continue to stabilize, lenders are likely to take advantage of the situation by putting more of these distressed properties on the market, economists said.
"Banks have remained in foreclosure paralysis, allowing that backlog to get larger and larger. You can't do that indefinitely," said Sandeep Bordia, head of U.S. residential credit strategy at Barclays Capital.
That impact could be muted if enough buyers emerge to snap up properties or efforts to enroll borrowers in mortgage relief programs improve. Some lenders are looking for ways to ease delinquent borrowers out of their homes without a foreclosure. For example, lenders are allowing more short sales, in which the home is sold for less than the outstanding loan balance. Citigroup is testing a program that allows delinquent borrowers to stay in their home for six months free if they leave the property in good condition, making it easier to sell afterward

Monday, May 3, 2010


Banks have fewer foreclosed homes to sell than previously believed, but those holdings are likely to grow gradually over the next couple of years, a new study by Barclays Capital says.
The investment bank's latest calculations support the view that the U.S. housing market is stabilizing but that a major recovery isn't imminent and there are still risks of falling prices.
Barclays estimates banks and mortgage investors including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owned 480,000 homes at the end of February. Barclays has acquired more data on mortgages and refined its methods for analyzing foreclosure trends. Under the bank's previous methods, the estimate for February would have been more than 600,000.
Barclays expects the inventory generally to rise over the next 20 months, peaking at 536,000 in January 2012, and then decline gradually.
Estimating the inventory of foreclosed homes remains tricky because thousands of banks and others that own the properties disclose those holdings in varying ways, if at all. RealtyTrac Inc., another data provider and one of the few other firms that regularly make such calculations, estimates banks and mortgage investors own 758,000 foreclosed homes.
To get a sense of how many more households will lose their homes to foreclosures or related actions, Barclays tallies what it calls a shadow inventory, consisting of homeowners 90 days or more overdue on mortgage payments or already in the foreclosure process. At the end of February, 4.6 million households were in that category.

Barclays expects 1.6 million "distressed sales" of homes—mainly foreclosures or sales of homes for less than the mortgage balance due—both this year and in 2011, then a slight decline to 1.5 million in 2012. Last year, Barclays estimates, such sales totaled 1.5 million. About 30% of all home sales this year and next will be foreclosure-related, forecasts Robert Tayon, a mortgage analyst at Barclays, who says that would be only about 6% in a normal housing market.
Barclays expects U.S. home prices on average will fall another 3% to 5% over the next couple of years, adding to a decline of about 30% already recorded since 2006. That forecast assumes a gradual decrease in the unemployment rate, to 8% within the next two years, from 9.7% in March. The home-price picture would worsen if job growth sputters or banks "push homes through the foreclosure pipeline faster than expected," Mr. Tayon says.
Efforts to avert foreclosures by offering many borrowers lower payments have slowed the flow of homes into bank ownership. In some parts of the country—such as the Las Vegas area and Orange County, Calif.—that has left bargain-hunters frustrated by what they see as a shortage of bank-owned properties in attractive neighborhoods.
In the Las Vegas area, foreclosed homes accounted for 56% of sales in March, down from 73% a year earlier, according to MDA DataQuick, a research firm.
By James R. Hagerty, April 28, 2010