While 114 out of 212 metropolitan areas with a population of 200,000 or more saw increases in foreclosure activity during the 2012 first quarter, activity was still down compared to the same quarter a year ago, according to RealtyTrac’s 2012 first quarter Metropolitan Foreclosure Market Report.
Last year, 135 out of 212 metros areas saw increases in foreclosure activity in the first quarter.
“First quarter metro foreclosure trends were a mixed bag,” said Brandon Moore, CEO of RealtyTrac. “While the majority of metro areas continued to show foreclosure activity down from a year ago, more than half reported increasing foreclosure activity from the previous quarter – an early sign that long-dormant foreclosures are coming out of hibernation in many local markets.”
Michelle Schneider, a public relations consultant for RealtyTrac, further explained increases in activity are mostly due to the backlog of two main types of distressed loans pushing their way through: loans that are 90 days or more delinquent that are moving into foreclosure and properties in foreclosure that are getting auctioned off or foreclosed on.
Parties to the landmark mortgage servicing settlement in February appointed one man to oversee $25 billion in compliance.
In an interview with DS News, Joseph A. Smith, onetime banking commissioner for North Carolina and ex-nominee for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, lays out the role he envisions playing as he monitors funds for homeowners, states, and the federal government.
The settlement monitor speaks with an understated tone about his stewardship of the historic settlement, which 49 state attorneys general and federal officials completed in February.
“I’ll implement exactly what the settlement says and we’ll go from there,” he tells DS News.
His main prerogatives: Setting expectations with servicers, establishing a sense of integrity for his office and the process, and deploying assets as well as possible.
Smith says he continues to engage in preparatory meetings with the nation’s five largest servicers – Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citigroup, Chase, and Wells Fargo – as he rolls out the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight (OMSO).
According to the Zillow Home Value Forecast, prices are projected to fall 0.4 percent over the next year, but not all markets are expected to see this decline, with several already appearing to have reached bottom.
Of the 30 metro areas covered by the Zillow forecast, 19 are expected to, or already have hit their lowest point in 2012, with nowhere else to go but up.
Markets that seem to have bottomed out already are Boston, Dallas, Denver, Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Tampa. Zillow expects Baltimore, Los Angeles, and San Jose to follow suit.
Metro areas that are expected to see significant gains following their low point in the next 12 months include Phoenix (6.5 percent), Miami-Ft. Lauderdale (5.6 percent), and Tampa (2.5 percent), according to the forecast.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will require loan servicers who need more than 30 days to make a decision on a short-sale offer to provide weekly status updates and give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down no later than 60 days after receiving an offer.
The new short-sale timelines, announced this week by Fannie and Freddie's regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, take effect in June as the first step in a broader effort to "develop enhanced and aligned strategies for facilitating short sales, deeds-in-lieu and deeds-for-lease in order to help more homeowners avoid foreclosure."
Fixed rates made a slight upward tick this week, Freddie Mac reported in its weekly market survey.
“Fixed mortgage rates held relatively stable this week amid signs that inflation remains in check,” said Frank Nothaft, VP and chief economist for Freddie Mac.
Nothaft also added that industrial production was flat in March, while both headline inflation gauges such as the consumer and producer price indexes for March were in line with market expectations.
With the number of short sales increasing and even outnumbering REO sales in certain states, experts are speculating short sales might become key to preventing an even greater swelling of foreclosed properties on the market.
Compared to a year ago in January 2012, pre-foreclosure sales, which are typically short sales, increased 33 percent, according to a RealtyTrac report released Thursday.
Short sales even outpaced bank-owned REO sales in 12 states, including Utah, California, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Colorado, New York and New Jersey.
Also, 32 states saw annual increases in pre-foreclosure sales, with the top five being Georgia (+113 percent), Michigan (+90 percent), Wisconsin (+77 percent), South Carolina (+76 percent) and Utah (+70 percent).
Despite the increase, Daren Blomquist, VP of RealtyTrac and author of the report, points out that short sales have declined on a long-term basis, but January’s report could signal a turning point.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Thursday that existing home sales decreased 2.6 percent, in March, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.48 million units, falling short of the 4.62 million economists had forecast. In response to this data, economists representing different institutions provided their insight to explain what the recent numbers might indicate.
Patrick Newport, U.S. economist, IHS Global Insight
“Existing home sales declined in March mainly because fewer investors bought homes. Sales to those looking for a home to live in have been flat (and weak) for the past six months, despite low borrowing rates, low home prices and rising rents.
Being the parent of two young boys, I tend to watch a lot of programs on the Disney Channel. One program that gets a lot of airtime there (and on its sister channel Disney XD) is Phineas and Ferb, a cartoon about two imaginative young boys, whose wild schemes always seem to succeed regardless of the efforts of their sister/half-sister Candace to stop them (to those of us who remember the late 1960s/early 1970s, Candace could be a metaphor for what some of us called "the man").
A recent survey from staffing firm Robert Half International finds many chief financial officers believe their office environment has been successful in their Candace role of stifling worker creativity.
Approximately 35% of the CFOs said a lack of new ideas is the greatest barrier to making their company more innovative. To me that answer is more about the symptoms and less about the cause. But the next two responses are more revealing; nearly one quarter said their firms have too much bureaucracy, while one in five felt employees are getting too bogged down in their daily tasks or being forced to put out fires rather than being innovative and productive.
By: Mark Lieberman, Five Star Institute Economist
Existing-home sales fell to 4.48 million (seasonally adjusted annualized rate) in March from an upwardly revised February rate of 4.60 million, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Thursday. Economists had forecast the March sales pace would be 4.62 million. At the same time, the median price of a new home rose to $163,800, its highest level since last November’s $164,000 and up 2.5 percent since March 2011, the first year-year increase in prices since December 2010.
The sales pace was the weakest since November 2011. Sales have slipped in three of the last four months.
The inventory of homes for sale dropped to 2.37 million, the first decline in three months, bringing the months’ supply of homes on the market to 6.3.
March sales – completed transactions – were down 2.6 percent from February but are up 5.2 percent from March 2011. February’s sales pace was originally reported as 4.59 million
While the term “foreclosure victim” generally brings to mind images of struggling homeowners, one report released by First Focus addressed the impact of foreclosures on an overlooked segment: children.
Julia B. Isaacs of the Brookings Institution authored the report, which revealed five years into the housing crises, 2.3 million children have lost their homes to foreclosure, and 3 million more are at serious risk of losing their home in the future. In addition, approximately 3 million children were evicted, or may face eviction, from rental properties.
Overall, one in 10 children were found to be affected by foreclosures.
“Children are the often invisible victims of the foreclosure crisis,” said Issacs.