Foreclosure Freeze/Shortsales/Market Conditions

The news has been full of headlines about the new crisis in the mortgage industry, this time affecting foreclosures. So it seems like an opportune time to look at not only foreclosures, but also shortsales and the latest market update from RMLS.

The Foreclosure Freeze
There is now discussion that the foreclosure process, which has pretty much swamped the big lenders like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, has been mishandled. The accusation is that the paperwork involved in the foreclosures was often reviewed and processed by unqualified people and by people who did not read what they were signing. I do not know if this is true or not, but I do know that I have counseled people who are in foreclosure who have not only felt powerless, but have felt that the bank was not answering their letters, returning their phone calls, or being responsive. Obviously there is going to be anger for a person in this position. That combined with the current media coverage does make me feel that we will see litigation.

Gregor Watson, a principal with McKinley Partners, recently gave a best to worst case assessment of what this means:
Best case: this is only a technical glitch. It will require some re-tooling of the process, but the process will get back on track and foreclosures will resume. This is needed to allow the glut of foreclosures to work their way through the market and then be out of the inventory.
Medium case: people will enter into significant litigation that could take years to sort out. This could slow and extend the downturn of the housing market.
Worst case: the housing market is brought to a halt because Title Companies refuse to insure mortgages involving foreclosed homes. (This would not bring the entire market to a halt: simply the foreclosures. Still, a big problem)

On the positive side the Philidelphia Inquirer reported yesterday that Bank of America intends to begin resuming foreclosure proceedings stating that they have a legal right to do so despite accusations that documents used in the process are flawed. This bodes well for the possibility that the better scenario may result. We shall see….

When the whole shortsale phenomenon began a few years ago I will admit that I was a skeptic. It reminded me of the buy-a-house-with-credit-cards schemes. Just too simple to be true. Really? You could just ask your bank to forgive part of your mortgage so that you could sell it for less? Really? As time has gone by I have come to see that not only are shortsales here to stay, they are a significant part of the market.

I think shortsales do present remarkable opportunity, as do foreclosures. It allows a house to be sold for market value and not have an asking price that is based upon a value/debt that is several years old. But shortsales are not for everyone. I want to make if very clear that if you are a homeowner considering a shortsale, you need professional and legal advice far beyond the scope of what I am discussing here. So I want to directly address buyers.

The buyer best suited to benefit from a shortsale is the investor. This is because the shortsale is so uncertain and the process takes months. A buyer who is shopping for a home may have the patience for this, but is usually not in a position to wait 3-5 months and then learn that they lost the house to another bid or that the shortsale was not approved. Whereas an investor is not waiting with a moving truck full of furniture. If it works, it works. If not, that’s OK too. For the investor able to be patient, it can present real opportunity. I have personally seen several homes here in Lake Oswego that sold for values that made my jaw drop in the shortsale scenario. Just know what you are getting into.

Keeping it Local
Here in Lake Oswego we currently have an active listing inventory of 626 listings (condos and houses). Of those 37 are Bank-owned Foreclosures and 70 are shortsales. And this means that about 82% of the market is neither a foreclosure nor a shortsale. It’s a home owned by someone who is not in it upside down and who has perhaps even taken loving care of it. So there is a house out there for you whether you are an investor, a home buyer looking for a personal residence, or even a home buyer looking for a personal residence with the patience of an investor.

Also keeping it local, the latest RMLS Market Action Report offers the following information about area 147, which is Lake Oswego and West Linn Combined
Total active listings = 1025
Total pending sales = 84, a decrease of 24.3% over the same time one year ago
Average sales price = $432,200
Average days on the market = 186
Change in values over the same time last year = -9.3%
Change is closed sales, year to date = -22.3%

I consider myself to be a very positive person. The thing to do in this economy is look for how it can work in your favor. That may mean waiting, but that may also mean pouncing on opportunity. The subject today is pretty complex. Please contact Linda or myself for more information, to ask questions, or to get property information. We are here to be of help.