“Visualize this thing you want. See it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin.” – Robert Collier
CONSUMER CONFIDENCE: WHICH WAY IS IT HEADED?
There is no doubt that the housing market and the economy are intertwined. The economy will get better as housing improves. Housing will regain strength as the economy improves. How is the economy actually doing? One measure is the Misery Index which combines the inflation and unemployment numbers. According to their site:
The misery index was initiated by economist Arthur Okun, an adviser to President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. It is simply the unemployment rate added to the inflation rate. It is assumed that both a higher rate of unemployment and a worsening of inflation both create economic and social costs for a country. A combination of rising inflation and more people out of work implies a deterioration in economic performance and a rise in the misery index.
How does information like this impact Consumer Confidence?
Obviously, this index reflects on the factors that eat at consumer confidence. Bloomberg News reported on this saying:
Confidence among U.S. consumers dropped more than forecast in June as households contended with higher prices that are eating into incomes amid slowing job growth. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment decreased to 71.8 from 74.3 in May.
It will be difficult for housing to rebound while consumers are concerned about their financial futures.
WILL FALLING VALUES LEAD TO MORE STRATEGIC DEFAULTS?
As prices continue to soften, more and more homeowners will fall into a position of negative equity on their homes. This means that the balance on their mortgage is greater than the value of their home. The reason this is important is that people are more prone to strategically default on their mortgage when ‘underwater’.
What is a strategic default?
Let’s first define strategic default in simple terms. According to Wikipedia:
A strategic default is the decision by a borrower to stop making payments (i.e. default) on a debt despite having the financial ability to make the payments.
This is particularly associated with residential and commercial mortgages, in which case it usually occurs after a substantial drop in the house’s price such that the debt owed is (considerably) greater than the value of the property – the property negative equity or “underwater” – and is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future, such as following the bursting of a real estate bubble. Such borrowers are called “walkaways.”
This definition itself serves as the explanation as to why people will default.
How do Americans view strategic default?
In Fannie Mae’s recent National Housing Survey, they shed some light on American’s thoughts on strategic default.
- The number of underwater homeowners who believe it is okay to default on your mortgage if you are under financial distress has almost doubled in the last twelve months (14% to 27%).
- 47% of people that are underwater and behind on their mortgage have considered strategic default.
- Those who know a strategic defaulter are more likely to have considered defaulting.
- 1 in 5 Americans knows a strategic defaulter
As more people enter into negative equity, more will be tempted to ‘walk away’ from their mortgage obligations. If they do walk, that will increase the number of homes entering foreclosure.
FORECLOSURES SLOW AS BANKS FACE BACKLOGS
Nationwide, new foreclosure cases and repossessions have dropped by a third since last fall as banks, as greater scrutiny over banks’ foreclosure procedures and more home owners fighting back in court has slowed the pace. Banks, already facing huge backlogs of foreclosures they’ve already repossessed, also may be reluctant to add on more to their inventory, experts say.
For example, In New York, experts estimate it would take lenders 62 years at their current pace to repossess the 213,000 houses now in severe default or foreclosure, according to LPS Applied Analytics, a real estate data firm. New York boasted the longest foreclosure backlog in the nation. Following behind, in New Jersey it would take 49 years, and in Florida, Massachusetts, and Illinois it would take 10 years to handle the supply of foreclosures at the current pace.
States where courts must review each foreclosure tend to have the longest delays. But in the 27 states without that requirement, foreclosures are much quicker. For example, as comparison, in California, the foreclosure backlog is three years, and in Nevada and Colorado, it’s two years.
“If you were in foreclosure four years ago, you were biting your nails, asking yourself, ‘When is the sheriff going to show up and put me on the street?'” Herb Blecher, an LPS senior vice president, told The New York Times. “Now you’re probably not losing any sleep.”
However, the banks say they is no strategy in delaying foreclosures. “Any suggestion that we have a strategy to delay foreclosures is baseless,” a spokesman for Bank of America said. Instead, one bank blamed delays in state laws governing foreclosures while others said the decline in foreclosures is the product of an improving economy.
SCAM CHEATS BORROWERS OUT OF LOAN PAYMENTS
Warn your home owner clients to beware of a scam growing in many parts the country that tries to trick home owners out of a month or two of their mortgage payments.
The Chicago Tribune referred to it as the “handoff rip-off” scheme, in which scammers send letters to borrowers informing them that a new company has assumed the management of their loans and to start making mortgage payments to the new company.
Many home owners aren’t familiar with the rules when it comes to the transfer of mortgage-servicing so they follow the letter’s directions in sending their payments to the new company and could possibly lose thousands in mortgage payments.
Inform your home owner clients of mortgage-servicing transfer rules so they won’t be duped. For example, the law requires a company that provides a mortgage on behalf of the loan’s owner to send a “goodbye” letter notifying them that at a specific date their payment should be sent to a new company. Then, a week or so later, the home owner is legally to receive a second letter from the new servicer that provides mortgage payment information (their principal, interest, and escrow). Both letters should include the home owner’s loan number, the Tribune article explains.
When in doubt, contact your original servicer to find out if the letter received is legit or fraud.
The scheme “works for maybe two months” because that is usually how long it takes for borrowers to realize they’ve been tricked, says Becky Walzak, a loan-quality assurance expert. “But if the bad guys are any good, they’ve taken in thousands of payments from thousands of people. They cash them, and they move on to the next batch of borrowers.”