Why Short Sales Take So Long
Banks and Bureaucracy
Paperwork Gets Lost in the Process
Two Lenders = Double the Time
How to Expedite a Short Sale
Institutional investors appear to be losing interest in purchasing foreclosed properties for rentals in the face of rising property prices and interest rates and increased competition from homebuyers. According to RealtyTrac's January 2014U.S. Residential and Foreclosure Sales Report, the share of home sales tied to institutional investors – entities that purchase ten or more properties in a calendar year – dropped to 5.2 percent in January, down from 7.9 percent in December and 8.2 percent in January 2013. The January number was a 22 month low.
Daren Blomquist, a RealtyTrac vice president said, "Many have anticipated that the large institutional investors backed by private equity would start winding down their purchases of homes to rent, and the January sales numbers provide early evidence this is happening. It's unlikely that this pullback in purchasing is weather-related given that there were increases in the institutional investor share of purchases in colder-weather markets such as Denver and Cincinnati, even while many warmer-weather markets in Florida and Arizona saw substantial decreases in the share of institutional investors from a year ago."
The fall back in institutional investors occurred in nearly three-quarters of the metropolitan areas tracked by the Irvine California company. Areas with particularly large declines from a year earlier included Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida (-70 percent); Memphis (-64 percent), Tucson (-59 percent), and Tampa (-48 percent). Institutional activity increased in 23 of the 101 areas with Austin, Texas notable for a 162 percent rise while Cincinnati was up 83 percent and Dallas 30 percent.
Institutional investment remains a major factor in sales in several areas including Jacksonville, Florida at 25.5 percent, Atlanta, (25.1 percent), and Austin (18.0).
Sales of all U.S. residential properties including single family homes, condos, and townhomes were at an estimated annual rate of 5.126 million units in January, a less than 1 percent increase from December and up 8 percent from a year earlier. The rate of sales declined in seven states and 17 of the 50 largest metropolitan areas.
RealtyTrac said that foreclosure-related and short sales accounted for 17.5 percent of all residential sales in January, up from 14.9 percent in December. In January 2013 distressed properties accounted for 18.7 percent of sales. The distressed sales breakdown in January as a percent of all sales was 5.9 percent short sales, 10.2 percent bank owned real estate (REO) and 1.5 percent properties sold at foreclosure auction.
All-cash sales accounted for 44.4 percent of all U.S. residential sales in January, the seventh consecutive month where all-cash sales have been above the 35 percent level. In several metro areas the majority of sales were all-cash; Miami (68.2 percent), Jacksonville, (66.2 percent), Memphis (64.4 percent) Tampa (61.5 percent) and Las Vegas (56.5 percent.)
The national median sales price of U.S. residential properties – including both distressed and non-distressed sales – was $165,957 in January, down 3 percent from December but up 1 percent from January 2013. The 3 percent monthly decrease was the biggest monthly drop since February 2013. Some of the markets which had shown the fastest appreciation posted declines in January. Some cities where prices fell 1 to 2 percent were San Francisco, Sacramento, Memphis, Cincinnati, Phoenix, and San Jose. Prices in each, however, were a minimum of 19 percent above year-ago levels.
Best Regards, Chris Mesunas.
Written by Blanche Evans
According to a new survey from Fannie Mae, credit availability is improving. For the first time in over three years, the majority of consumers believe it's easier to get a mortgage.
Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's chief economist said, "The gradual upward trend in this indicator during the last few months bodes well for the housing recovery and may be contributing to this month's increase in consumers' intention to buy rather than rent their next home."
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) says consumers are correct – credit availability has increased, particularly in the jumbo and refinance loan markets.
Explained Mike Fratatoni, chief economist for the MBA, "The market continues to adapt to the new QM [Qualified Mortgage] regulation by eliminating products that do not fit inside of the QM box. This tightening is being offset, both in the market for higher balance loans, where lenders continue to loosen terms for jumbo loans, and in the refi market, where more lenders are offering streamline refinance programs."
But there could be other reasons that credit is more available. Credit reporting agency Transunion announced that the mortgage delinquency rate for the fourth quarter of 2013 was 3.85 percent, down from 5.08 percent.
Delinquencies have been steadily declining over the past two years, while improved home sales and rising prices have allowed many homeowners on the edge of delinquency to sell their homes and get into something more affordable.
Credit has been extraordinarily tight since 2008, as lenders struggled with federal claims of mortgage fraud. For years, lenders raised credit standards beyond what was required to qualify for federally guaranteed loans and loans destined for purchase by the securities industry.
As the government leveled fines and made repayment settlements with many of the big banks, lenders are more willing to make mortgage loans. With the most toxic loans before 2008 foreclosed and disposed, lenders have more confidence in loans generated since them.
In fact, Transunion also reported that more loans were generated to borrowers with less-than-perfect credit in Q4 2013.
"We are on the downward slope of the mortgage delinquency curve, so we expect to continue seeing delinquency rates that have not been seen for several years," said Steve Chaouki, head of financial services for TransUnion.
With job gains growing, relatively low interest rates available and a tight supply of homes insuring equity gains, mortgage delinquencies should continue declining, and buyers should feel more confident in their decision to buy a home in 2014.
In the latest edition of CoreLogic's Market Pulse the company's senior economist Mark Fleming provides adifferent take on housing affordability which he says economists are predicting will experience a "shock" in 2014. There is a degree of uniformity in their predictions, he says, that rising rates, increasing house prices and stagnant incomes will soon herald the demise of the era of affordable housing.
While Fleming does not argue with the basic premise he disagrees with the view that that news is "shocking." "As I often point out with most housing statistics today," he says, "it is less important to focus on the fact that housing affordability is declining, but rather where it stands relative to historically normal levels." But beyond the historical, Fleming also argues that affordability is actually proceeding along two different tracks, one for existing homeowners and another for those looking to buy their first home.
Using the same methodology as the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) and assuming a 20 percent downpayment and a 25-percent qualifying ratio Fleming constructed his own affordability index. Using this he says national affordability was down 17 percent from the previous October and 22 percent from its peak in January 2013. These declines are the result of an 11 percent appreciation in the CoreLogic Home Price Index (HPI) and a 100 basis point rise in interest rates. Yet CoreLogic's affordability measure is 35 percent higherthan in 2000 when mortgage interest rates were 8 percent and home prices were rising more modestly. So Fleming says, though clearly less accessible than a year ago, housing remains affordable in the current market."
But that analysis misses an important point. While affordability can vary by market is also varies dramatically depending on whether you are a homeowner or not because homeowners capture price increases in the form of equity. Thus affordability for the first time buyer is a measure of his income, the interest rates, and the price of homes; a homeowner's affordability level is functionally unchanged by increases in the latter.
The chart, which is based on a 5 percent downpayment, shows that during the period of 2003 to 2007, declining interest rates improved affordability for existing homeowners but that advantage for first time buyers was more than offset by rising home prices and housing reached its least-affordable level in 2006. Then in 2007 the recession took hold, interest rates began their fall to historic levels, and home prices also declined dramatically, costing existing homeowners their equity but improving affordability for first-time homeowners, putting the two groups on near equal footing by the end of 2010.
Fleming said that homeowners have disproportionately lost affordability again over the last two years; down 17 percent for that group compared to 6 percent for existing homeowners. And while first time buyers will still find affordability 35 percent higher than in the early 2000s, affordability for existing homeowners is almost 100 percent above the average back then as modest income gains have compounded and rates are still extremely low.
Context and ownership clearly matter Fleming says. "Will a further rate rise and increasing prices in 2014 eventually make housing unaffordable? That will depend, but one thing is clear: First-time homebuyers will be more significantly impacted."
Best Regards, Chris Mesunas
With new rules defining Qualified Mortgages (QM) slated to kick in on Friday at least two lenders have indicated they will make room for loans that don't quite fit the government mandated mold. The two, Wells Fargo and Bank of the West, plan to write at least some of the loans, retaining them for their own portfolios.
Bank of the West, headquartered in Omaha says it will continue to offer interest only loans to its customers even though the loans fall outside the guidelines established by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Paul Wible, Senior Executive Vice President and Head of the bank's National Finance Group said in a statement this week, "We extensively reviewed the CFPB's rules and found them broadly consistent with how Bank of the West has always done business. At the same time, we know that interest-only loans can fulfill the mortgage needs of many of our customers. Therefore, even though they do not fit the CFPB's definition of a QM, we will continue to offer them as before."
Wible said that the bank's analysis confirmed its belief that a well-underwritten, interest only loan could be good for its customers and safe for the bank to hold on its balance sheet. These loans, he said, meet the needs of certain customers such as the self-employed and that the bank will continue to require that such borrowers meet its prudent underwriting criteria.
Bank of the West, a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, has assets of $65 billion and operates 600 retail and commercial banking locations in 19 states.
On a much larger scale, Wells Fargo, the country's largest home lender is reported to be readying a group to handle nothing but portfolio loans. Bloomberg says the bank has created "a swat team" of about 400 underwriters who will originate mortgages for the bank to hold. As many as 40 percent of the loans are expected to be outside of new government guidelines.
Bloomberg said they were told by Brad Blackwell, head of portfolio lending at the bank that the group will review loans that do not qualify for the safe harbor protections of new CFPB rules as a way to increase lending without losing control of quality.
'"We have separated the underwriting group into a separate team that only underwrites loans" for the bank's own balance sheet,' Blackwell told Bloomberg. '"We found it impossible to achieve our objectives" with the two groups together, he said.'
The bank's portfolio held $72.4 billion in non-conforming mortgages at the end of the third quarter, 14.5 billion of which Wells Fargo added in the second and third quarters of 2013.
The housing recovery hit high gear in 2013 with bigger than expected price gains and solid home sales. This year isn't likely to be as exciting. Rising mortgage interest rates will price out some potential buyers. Instead of double-digit price gains, look for single-digit ones, economists say, while existing home sales remain at last year's level.
Sound boring? "You want boring in the housing market," says Svenja Gudell, Zillow director of economic research.
Here's what's ahead for:
• Home prices. They were the highlight of the 2013 housing market, up 12.5% in October year over year, CoreLogic says. Prices are now 20% off their 2006 peaks after falling more than 30%, shows the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller index.
Economist John Burns looks for a 6% gain in 2014. Many others see smaller increases ahead. Zillow forecasts just a 3% rise.
Prices will likely rise more slowly as more homes come on the market, fewer investors bid for homes and higher ownership costs — including interest rates and home prices — take a bite out of housing affordability, housing experts say.
Still, U.S. housing remains 4% undervalued when compared with other economic fundamentals, such as consumer incomes and the cost to rent, says Jed Kolko, Trulia economist. At their 2006 peak, home prices were 39% overvalued based on the same metrics, Kolko says.
•Existing home sales. They've started to slow. In November, they were down year over year for the first time in 29 months, National Association of Realtor data show.
The dip was driven by higher interest rates and a tight supply of homes for sale. It doesn't mean the housing recovery has come off the rails, because home prices and housing starts continue to improve, says Capital Economics economist Paul Ashworth.
Existing home sales, which came in at a 4.9 million seasonally adjusted pace in November, are expected to be about 10% higher in 2013 than 2012 and stay about the same at 5.1 million in 2014, NAR forecasts. That's roughly back to 2007 levels but below the inflated levels preceding the housing crash.
New-home sales, which make up a smaller part of the market, have more room to grow. They hit an annual pace of 464,000 in November, up almost 17% from a year ago but still below the 700,000-a-year pace generally considered healthy.
The new year will be different for home buyers, though.
Look for fewer bidding wars and a less frantic market, says Glenn Kelman, CEO of brokerage Redfin. Its data show bidding wars recently falling to one of two offers handled by Redfin agents, down from three of four at the peak in March.
Homes are taking longer to sell, and more sellers are also reducing prices to win sales, Kelman says. At the same time, the supply of existing homes for sale edged up to 5.1 months from 4.9 months in October, NAR says. That's still below the six-month supply that Realtors generally consider to be a balanced market for buyers and sellers.
Supply should get closer to that level in 2014, Kelman says.
Donaee and Jeff Reeve hope he's right. The couple sold their Seattle-area home in just 10 days amid a hot June market. They've been renting as they search for a new home with a few acres. Meanwhile, prices have risen. The lack of suitable homes for sale is "discouraging," says Donaee Reeve, 36, a dental hygienist.
• Housing construction. This part of the housing recovery has been a laggard.
November's data showed an improvement, with housing starts topping 1 million on an annual basis, the Commerce Department says. That was up almost 30% from a year earlier, but it's still far below the norm. Starts averaged 1.5 million a year before the mid-2000s housing boom.
Construction won't return to normal this year, but it will strengthen enough to be the main driver of the housing recovery as home price gains shrink, says investment manager Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
It sees housing starts increasing 20% a year for the next several years as household formation picks up with the strengthening economy.
More home construction means more jobs for construction workers, plumbers, civil engineers and others in the building trades, as well as related industries such as furniture manufacturing, it says.
Construction alone will add 300,000 to 500,000 jobs a year to the nation's job base for the next three years, GSAM predicts. That's up from about 100,000 in 2013.
"The construction revival is primarily a matter of when, not if," says Tom Teles, GSAM head of securitized and government investments.
• Mortgage rates. Sarah and Andrew Katz know home prices are going up, and mortgage interest rates, too. But they're still convinced it's a good time to buy a first home. They've set their sights on spring.
"We're banking on interest rates staying under 5%, but they are what they are," says Sarah, 29, who works in public relations in Manhattan.
The couple better not wait too long, economists warn.
Average rates for a fixed 30-year mortgage will rise to 5.5% by the end of 2014, says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. Rates have already risen about 1 percentage point in the past year as the economy has strengthened. They'll be pushed up further as the Federal Reserve winds down its $85 billion monthly bond-buying program.
Each percentage point increase in mortgage rates makes homes about 10% more expensive in terms of higher housing payments.
Another factor could weigh on borrowers. Starting in January, lenders must make home loans that meet new federal qualified mortgage standards or face greater liability from borrower lawsuits, should the loans go sour.
At least 5% of mortgages extended in 2013 wouldn't meet the new standard, Yun says. More than that will likely face additional scrutiny from lenders as they implement all parts of the new rule, says Brian Koss, executive vice president of lender Mortgage Network.
He says the higher rates and tighter rules will likely drive some home buyers out of the market or into lower-priced homes than they could have afforded last year.
"People have gotten spoiled," Koss says. Higher rates and home prices will test the strength of the housing recovery in 2014, he says.
A Freddie Mac senior vice president is using the company's blog to debunk a few myths she says may be keepinghomeowners from refinancing through HARP, the Home Affordable Refinance Program. Tracy Mooney's information about on nine HARP misconceptions might not only be helpful for homeowners themselves but a good resource for lenders to share with customers and the public.
1. Myth One is that refinancing with HARP (or any other program for that matter) would reset the clock and the borrower would again be looking at 30 years of mortgage payments. This, as Tracy points out, is not true as almost any refinancing allows the borrower to pick a term from 10 to 30 years for the new loan. The counterpoint is that most borrowers opt for a 30yr term and this does indeed entail a new 30 years of payments. Even then, if the interest rate is lower and the borrower simply continued paying the original mortgage payment, less interest would be paid over time and the loan would be paid off faster than the original would have been. Bottom line: all things being equal, dropping the rate is advantageous in most cases.
2. Some borrowers have so many offers to refinance coming their way they fear some may be scams. Mooney says that many legitimate offers have specific information identifying the borrower's existing loan such as the account number. Also the borrower can report any suspicious offers at 888-995-HOPE. When in doubt borrowers should check with their current lender.
3. Another myth is that HARP can't help homeowners who are underwater on their mortgage. That, in fact, is what HARP was designed to do and has no restrictions on loan-to-value ratios for fixed-rate mortgages.
4. The fourth myth is that refinancing is hopeless for the unemployed. HARP does offer options that might work such as underwriting based on assets rather than income. Borrowers should reach out to their lender to discuss available solutions.
5. It is possible to refinance through HARP even if the borrower's current lender doesn't participate in the program. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have lists of lenders who can discuss options and eligibility with anyone.
6. Some people believe they are ineligible if they currently have an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM). HARP was in fact created to help such homeowners obtain mortgages that are more stable and sustainable. With rates still so low it is the perfect time to lock into a fixed-rate mortgage
7. Myth Seven is that condos are not eligible for HARP refinancing. Not only are condos eligible but so are investment properties and second homes.
8. It isn't always necessary to have sufficient cash up front to pay closing costs. Lenders can evaluate whether a borrower qualifies to have closing costs and other necessary expenses rolled into the new loan.
9. Finally many homeowners think HARP is only for those who are behind in their payments and in danger of foreclosure. In fact HARP is intended specifically for homeowners who are current on their mortgages but are underwater and unable to refinance through a traditional refinance programs
Moony said potentially millions of homeowners could save money each month by refinancing through HARP. The program has more than 2.9 million success stories so hopefully if you now know these myths are just that, she says, reach out to your lender and get started with HARP because, "Saving money is a good thing!"