A cool graph showing the state of distressed properties. Her are some of the highlights:
According to Corelogic, 412,000 short sales were successfully completed in 2012. Corelogic anticipates 400,000 short sales to be completed in 2013.
Also according to a Corelogic report from January of 2013, “negative equity and near-negative equity mortgages accounted for 26.8 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage nationwide in the third quarter of 2012.”
Beginning next month, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow underwater homeowners to walk away from their homes in a controversial move to offer relief to homeowners who have kept up with their payments, according to Bloomberg.com. While most contention has centered around homeowners that fail to or cannot pay their mortgages, many argue that homeowners owing more than their house is worth are also victims of the recession, which Fannie and Freddie intend to address.
The two mortgage giants back the majority of home loans in America, totaling over $5.2 trillion in mortgages. If homeowners with loans backed by Fannie or Freddie can show they owe more than their house is worth but have paid their loan on time, and they can show they need to relocate due to work, illness, or other qualifying reasons, they can apply for a deed-in-lieu transaction which will forgive the difference between the home’s value and the remaining balance on the mortgage, in exchange for handing the property over.
Bloomberg reports that under specific circumstances, underwater homeowners may still be required to pay a portion of the difference as a cash contribution of up to 20 percent of their financial reserves (excluding retirement funds), or a promissory note for future no-interest repayments.
Support for this controversial move
Supporters note that previous attempts to help struggling homeowners pushed borrowers to default before they could receive help, whereas this program incentivizes only behavior that is positive and keeps their loan on track, noting that underwater homeowners didn’t make a bad purchase decision, rather were punished by lending and housing policies that crashed the economy.
“Fannie and Freddie are finally recognizing that some people are stuck in their homes,” the director of housing finance and policy at the Center for American Progress tells Bloomberg. “There are a lot of families who need to move who can’t do it if they’re going to have debt hanging over their heads. There’s no winner when someone is forced to default on their mortgage — not the investor, not the homeowner, and certainly not the neighborhood.”
Criticism for this controversial move
Some suspect the timing of the announcement, as the housing sector is finally beginning to improve, with home values steadily improving – with Fannie and Freddie owing taxpayers a combined $190 billion, it could stunt their ability to repay.
“It’s an extraordinarily generous approach for companies still in debt to American taxpayers,” said Phillip Swagel, a professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy in College Park, Maryland. “We’re giving people an incentive to walk away, right when the housing market is starting to right itself.”
Homeowners in California are buying fake documents to delay foreclosures on their properties, a local paper reports.
Prosecutors in Stanislaus County, California, have cottoned on to the practice and begun cases against four homeowners. The four are accused of filing phony court documents - claiming the debt has been repaid or changing a trustee - in an attempt to stall foreclosure proceedings.
"It comes to a point where enough is enough. How many breaks can we give these people?” Jeff Mangar, a prosecutor with the district attorney's fraud unit, told The Modesto Bee. Staff handling filings are now aware of the practice and tip off investigators.
The counterfeit court filings are available online - for a fee - from websites claiming they can tie up banks in administrative proceedings for years. A website reviewed by the Bee claims none of its 2,600 customers have made a mortgage payment in the past two years.