We had read earlier of banks failing to foreclose in Dade and Broward counties because the marker was so glutted with properties for sale that there was simply no point. We heard yesterday of discussion in Cleveland of plowing largely vacant subdivisions back to farmland.
A third indicator of the degree of real estate stress: some banks are so backed up that their normal foreclosure process is falling behind. This means that the foreclosure statistics paint a more positive picture than the reality on the ground.
Banks are so overwhelmed by the U.S. housing crisis they’ve started to look the other way when homeowners stop paying their mortgages.
The number of borrowers at least 90 days late on their home loans rose to 3.6 percent at the end of December, the highest in at least five years, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington. That figure, for the first time, is almost double the 2 percent who have been foreclosed on.
Lenders who allow owners to stay in their homes are distorting the record foreclosure rate and delaying the worst of the housing decline, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com, a unit of New York-based Moody’s Corp. These borrowers will eventually push the number of delinquencies even higher and send more homes onto an already glutted market.
“We don’t have a sense of the magnitude of what’s really going on because the whole process is being delayed,” Zandi said in an interview. “Looking at the data, we see the problems, but they are probably measurably greater than we think.”
Lenders took an average of 61 days to foreclose on a property last year, up from 37 days in the year earlier, according to RealtyTrac Inc., a foreclosure database in Irvine, California. Sales of foreclosed homes rose 4.4 percent last year at the same time the supply of such homes more than doubled, according to LoanPerformance First American CoreLogic Inc., a real estate data company based in San Francisco
“Some people stay in their houses until someone comes to kick them out,” said Angel Gutierrez, owner of Dallas-based Metro Lending, which buys distressed mortgage debt. “Sometimes no one comes to kick them out.”
Banks are reluctant to foreclose on homeowners for a variety of reasons that include the cost, said Peter Zalewski, real estate broker and owner of Condo Vultures Realty LLC, a property consulting firm in Bal Harbour, Florida.
Legal fees and maintaining a vacant property while paying the mortgage, insurance and taxes can add up to as much as 15 percent of the value of the home, and it may take months for the foreclosure to work through the legal system, he said….
“Some of the banks just don’t want the houses to be empty, especially if it’s in an area where there’s a lot of theft or there are five other houses empty on the street,” said Kapsalis, who works at Added Value Realty LLC in Livonia, Michigan, another Detroit suburb. “They’ll lose toilets, plumbing, appliances, everything. Banks are getting wise and allowing people to live there longer.”…..
Five million existing homes were sold in February, down 31 percent from the peak of 7.25 million in September 2005, data compiled by the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors show. More than 4 million existing homes were on the market in February, 53 percent more than the 2.6 million average of the past nine years, the Realtors reported.
“Excess inventories pose the biggest risk to the market,” Michelle Meyer and Ethan Harris, New York-based economists at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., wrote in a report last month. “As long as inventories are high, home prices will fall.”….
State laws determine the length of time between the filing and an auction of the house. In most states, it’s two to six months, according to Foreclosures.com. In Maine, it can be up to a year and in New York, 19 months; in Georgia, it’s as quickly as one month, and in Nevada, it can be 35 days, according to the database.