Owners in Default Stay in Homes Anyway

An increasing number of home owners in foreclosure continue to live in their homes, mostly ignoring the foreclosure action and refusing to pay anything.

The average borrower in foreclosure is unlikely to be evicted for 438 days, says LPS Applied Analytics. LPS says more than 650,000 households haven’t paid their mortgage in 18 months, and in the case of 19 percent of those households, the lender hasn’t made any effort to repossess the property.

In some states like California and Texas, lenders can foreclose without a say-so from the courts. In those states, the action is likely to be quick. But in 19 states, including Florida and New York, the court must approve the foreclosure and resulting eviction and the process is slow.

Source: The New York Times, David Streitfeld (05/31/2010) 

Housing Inventory Decreases

The number of homes for sale declined 2.4 percent in November in the metropolitan areas covered by ZipRealty Inc. In the last 25 years, the decline in November has averaged 1.8 percent.

The data doesn’t include New York, but Miller Samuel Inc., an appraisal firm, reports that inventory was down 7.1 percent from the end of October and down 18 percent compared to November 2008.

October was the first month since January to show a rise in bank-owned homes. The number of bank-owned properties declined over the summer because of efforts to prevent foreclosures. As time runs out for many families, the number of foreclosures is increasing.

As of the end of October, banks and mortgage investors had 639,000 foreclosed homes for sale across the U.S., Barclays Capital estimates. “We expect a rebound in distressed inventory in the coming months,” says Glenn Boyd, a senior analyst at Barclays.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, James R. Hagerty (12/09/2009)

Countrywide Offers Help to Former Customers

Bank of America, which acquired Countrywide Financial Corp., one of the most active of the subprime lenders, has begun issuing checks to its borrowers who are eligible for foreclosure assistance under an agreement with attorneys general in 40 states.

Borrowers most likely to be eligible for assistance must have experienced a foreclosure, short sale, or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure after taking out a Countrywide mortgage.

Rust Consulting, a third-party administrator, is managing the program, and notifying and paying eligible customers.

Source: Reuters News, Steve Eder 

Investors Drive Foreclose Prices Up

Home shoppers in parts of the country with lots of foreclosures are finding it increasingly difficult to buy. Investors are bidding up prices thousands above the original asking price.

Federal legislation slowing the number of foreclosures is adding to the problem by reducing the number of homes on the market. For instance, in Las Vegas, one of the areas where the bidding problem is greatest, home inventories are down 10 percent since March, according to the Las Vegas Association of REALTORS®.

When a bidding war erupts, the problem is particularly difficult for traditional buyers because investors are usually cash purchasers. They can bid up a property without concern whether the appraisal will prevent them from getting a loan.

Experts say the problem is not unlike the situation at the height of the housing bubble. “This market is about as abnormal as the hypermarket that we came out of a few years ago,” says Jay Butler, director of the Realty Studies program at Arizona State University.

Source: The Associated Press, Jonathan J. Cooper 

Foreclosure leaders focused on 4 states in new metro list

The 26 cities with the highest foreclosure rate in the nation are all located in four hard-hit states, with Las Vegas topping the list, according to a report released Wednesday.

Metro areas in California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona topped the foreclosure filing list for the first quarter of 2009 in a report from RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties. A foreclosure filing includes default papers, auction sale notices and repossessions.

Las Vegas had the highest rate of foreclosures of any city, with one in every 22 homes subject to a foreclosure filing in the first three months of the year. The rate of foreclosure filings was 4.5%, seven times the national average.

Merced, Calif., had the second highest rate, with Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., Stockton, Calif., and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., rounding out the top five.

“The metro areas with the highest levels of foreclosure activity in the first quarter of 2009 paint a picture of concentrated problems in a relatively small number of hard-hit areas,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, in a written statement.

Foreclosure rates have been very high in the 4 key states throughout the bursting of the housing bubble, and so it was to be expected that cities from those states would pepper the top of the list.

However, it was a surprise to see the list so top heavy, according to Rick Sharga, senior vice president at RealtyTrac.

“The concentration of troubled metro areas within the hardest-hit states, candidly, was even more severe than we expected it to be,” Sharga said. “The degree to which those four states dominated the rankings surprised even us.”

New problem cities: Meanwhile, some metropolitan areas had a surge in foreclosures. Boise City-Nampa, Idaho, in 27th place, Provo-Orem, Utah, in 37th, and Charleston-North Charleston, S.C., in 51st were examples Sharga gave of areas that had particular strong gains in filings.

Sharga said the rise of foreclosures in additional regions indicates new factors influencing the housing market as the recession drags on.

“What we believe we are seeing is some of the areas with unemployment problems,” said Sharga. “These are people living paycheck to paycheck and, when the paycheck is gone, suddenly they can’t afford to make their mortgage payments.”

The data for RealtyTrak’s metro area foreclosure report is collected from 2,200 counties across the nation, and those counties represent more than 90% of the U.S. population. Some 203 areas are covered by the report.

Across the nation, foreclosure activity in the first quarter hit a record high, according to another RealtyTrac report issued last week. Total foreclosure filings reached 803,489 in the first three months of the year, the highest monthly and quarterly totals since RealtyTrac began reporting in January 2005.

The national report also found that the worst of the foreclosures were centralized in a handful of worst-hit states. California, Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Illinois accounted for nearly 60% of the total foreclosure activity in the first quarter, with 479,516 properties received foreclosure filings in those states.

Catherine Clifford, CNNMoney.com staff writer