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Ohio foreclosures down

Ohio foreclosure filings dropped for the fourth
straight year in 2013, another sign that housing is
slowly returning to normal.  Last year, 53,163
foreclosures were filed, 24% less than the number filed
in 2012 and the lowest level since 2001, according to
figures released this morning by the Ohio Supreme
Court.  Last year’s tally is 40% down from the
all-time high of 89,061 foreclosures in 2009, although
still well above the 20,000 or so annual filings before
the housing crash.  In central Ohio’s seven counties,
the 7,958 foreclosures filed last year were 28% below
the number filed in 2012.  Filings dropped
significantly in all central Ohio counties. In Delaware
County, 494 foreclosures were filed, a 37-percent drop;
in Fairfield, 578 filings (down 31%); in Franklin,
5,691 filings (down 26%); in Licking, 663 filings (down
31%); in Madison, 135 filings (down 24%); in Pick away,
204 filings (down 28%); in Union, 193 filings (down
37%).

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Bloomberg – 3 signs foreclosures are still festering in California

California foreclosure activity in the fourth quarter
of 2013 dropped to the lowest level since the third
quarter of 2006. Foreclosure activity has been steadily
declining in the state on an annual basis since the
first quarter of 2010.  But there are three signs there
are still some old, rotten and fermented foreclosures
festering in the California foreclosure pipeline that
eventually will be completing the foreclosure process
and hitting the market — in 2014 if the market is
lucky. If they linger any longer these old foreclosures
could really stink things up.

First, California foreclosure starts increased 10% on a
year-over-year basis in the first quarter of 2014. That
might not sound serious, but it stands out because
it’s the first annual increase in the state’s
foreclosure starts since first quarter of 2012, and
even then foreclosure starts increased less than 1%
from the previous year. The last double-digit
percentage annual increase in California foreclosure
starts was way back in the first quarter of 2009.
RealtyTrac predicted this rebound about six months ago
after foreclosure starts dropped precipitously in the
beginning of January 2013, when a new law called the
Homeowner Bill of Rights took effect. That legislation
codified in California for all lenders some of the
principles of the National Mortgage Settlement for the
nation’s five major lenders. Those principles include
no dual-tracking (where a foreclosure progresses
concurrently while a homeowner is pursuing a
foreclosure alternative); and a single point of contact
at the mortgage servicer for delinquent homeowners. The
law also allows for a fine of $7,500 per loan
foreclosed improperly in addition to additional damages
that can be pursued by the homeowner for material
violations of the law.  The law only applies to
California foreclosures pursued using the typical
non-judicial process in the state, but interestingly
part of the rise in foreclosure starts in the first
quarter comes as a result of skyrocketing judicial
foreclosures. This indicates lenders in some cases are
willing to use the often lengthier judicial process to
avoid some of the potential minefields in the
re-invented non-judicial foreclosure process.  Out of
the 20,228 California foreclosure starts in the first
quarter, 1,396 were filed judicially — up from just
one judicially filed foreclosure start in the first
quarter of 2013.

The rise in foreclosure starts is clearly not the
result of a new wave of distress hitting the California
housing market, but old distress finally entering the
foreclosure pipeline. That’s clear because the
average default amount on the first quarter batch of
foreclosure starts is the highest average default
amount RealtyTrac has documented in a single quarter
since it began tracking this metric in the first
quarter of 2011.  The default amount is the amount a
homeowner is behind on payments when the mortgage
servicer files a public notice starting the foreclosure
process. The average default amount on California
foreclosure starts in the first quarter of 2014 was
$56,415, up 53% from the average default amount of
$36,839 in the first quarter of 2013. Assuming a
monthly mortgage payment of roughly $3,000 — which is
likely on the high side — that average default amount
represents homeowners who have been missing their
mortgage payments an average of 18 months before the
bank starts the foreclosure process. On top of that,
the average time to complete a foreclosure once it
starts in California is now at 429 days.  That leaves
the California foreclosure process at an average of 993
days — more than two and a half years — from the
first missed mortgage payment to bank repossession. But
the process to completely resolve that distressed
property situation takes even longer because it’s
taking longer for banks to sell foreclosed properties
even after the foreclosure process is complete.
Bank-owned properties sold in the first quarter of 2014
took an average of 220 days to sell from the time they
completed the foreclosure process. That’s actually
down from 247 days in the fourth quarter of 2013, but
it’s up 28% from an average of 172 days in the first
quarter of 2013.  That now puts the entire distressed
property disposition process at an average of 1,213
days from delinquency to REO sale — well over three
years.

I recently encountered one of these well-aged
foreclosures in my neighborhood. I knew it was in
foreclosure several years ago, but I assumed the
situation had been resolved because the homeowner
continued to occupy the home.  But then one day I was
walking by and noticed furniture strewn about the lawn
and several signs posted in the front window. One of
those signs announced the property owner had been
evicted by the Orange County Sheriff. Another announced
the property was not yet listed for sale, but provided
the name and phone number of a real estate agent who
will be listing the property for sale eventually.  My
curiosity pricked, I looked the property up on
RealtyTrac — which I should have been doing anyway as
a responsible neighbor — and discovered it had
started the foreclosure process in September 2010, but
did not complete the foreclosure process and become
bank-owned until January 2013. Then it took more than a
year before the bank evicted the homeowner, and it will
likely be at least another couple months before the
property is listed for sale.  I’d call a property
like this a sleeper foreclosure. For the last few years
it showed no visible signs of being in distress, but
now it certainly is, and the longer it sits vacant the
more it could negatively impact the values of
surrounding homes in the neighborhood — including
mine. As more sleeper foreclosures like this across the
state are re-awakened it could become a bit of a
reality check for the California housing market in
2014.

RealtyTrac – shrinking middle class hurts housing

Incomes are dropping.  And that’s not good for the
real estate industry, nor is it good news for the
American Dream of homeownership.  More Americans view
themselves as slipping out of the middle calls,
according to a recent survey by the Pew Research
Center. The trend began in the 1970s, Pew claims, but
it has accelerated since the Great Recession.  In  the
past five years, the percentage of Americans who
consider themselves middle class has fallen sharply,
dropping from 44% in the latest survey from 53% in
2008. Forty% now identify as either lower-middle or
lower class compared with just 25% in February 2008.
One of lasting legacies of the Great Recession is the
hollowing out of the middle  class. Another report
bears this out. In 1970, about 65% of Americans lived
in middle class neighborhoods, compared with 42% today,
according to a recent study by Cornell University
researcher Kendra Bischoff and Sean Reardon of Stanford
University. The Census Bureau defines middle class as
those families making between $40,000 and $80,000 a
year. Incomes vary by state, with Maryland at more than
$67,000 and Mississippi at $39,000.

Since the Great Recession began in 2007, median
household income has steadily declined the last five
consecutive years,  according to the U.S. Census.
Median household income in 2012 was $51,017 a year,
down from $55,627 in 2007. According to the Census
report, the high point of household income in the U.S.
was back in 1999, when it was $56,080. The report also
showed 46.5 million Americans are mired in poverty.  In
any case, individuals and families who feel they’ve
slipped from the middle class are likely to spend and
borrow less, pulling back from buying big ticket items
like new cars and homes. Historically, homeowners
greatly outnumber renters in the U.S. by more than
three to one. However, in the wake of the housing bust
that brought on the Great Recession, the rate of home
ownership has slid steadily — from its peak at 69.2%
in the fourth quarter of 2004 (or 77 million
owner-occupied housing units) to  65.2% (or 72 million
units) in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to U.S.
Census data.  With incomes withering, and home
ownership declining, some researchers argue that
deep-seeded structural changes are underway in
America’s economy.

Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University,
says that America is increasingly dividing itself into
two disparate classes. At the top, there will be 10% to
15% of high achievers who are technologically savvy and
earning high salaries. Then, there is everyone else,
floundering in “hyper-meritocracy,” where many
careers become more demanding as employers measure
economic value with a “sometimes oppressive
precision.  We will move from a society based on the
pretence that everyone is given an okay standard of
living to a society in which people are expected to
fend for themselves much more than they do now,”
writes Cowen, author of Average is Over: Powering
America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation (Dutton,
2013). “I imagine a world where, say, 10% to 15% of
the citizenry is extremely wealthy and has
fantastically comfortable and stimulating lives, the
equivalent of current-day millionaires, albeit with
better health care. Much of the rest of the country
will have stagnant or maybe falling wages in dollar
terms, but a lot more  opportunities for cheap fun and
also cheap education.”

WSJ – the education of the luxury buyer

Seasoned home buyers—people who described themselves
as owning a “high-end luxury home”—approach the
purchasing process much differently than those
venturing into the high-end market for the first time,
according to an online survey conducted by Realtor.com
in March. These experienced high-end buyers focus less
on extra space and glitzy home features and more are
willing to pay over their budget to get a sound
investment.  Generally, seasoned luxury buyers look at
the long-term prospects for a property.  Still,
seasoned buyers and first-time buyers agree on some
things. They both cited views and chef kitchens as the
most important luxury-home features, according to the
survey. Seasoned folks saw luxury pools as third most
important, whereas other buyers cited outdoor living
areas.  First-time buyers ranked square footage and
extra bedrooms, as well as smart home and eco-friendly
features, higher than did current luxury homeowners. Of
those currently planning to purchase a luxury home, 20%
of seasoned buyers marked privacy as a top feature,
compared with 13% of first-time buyers.  Well-known
architects and developers with a reputation for
building good quality buildings are appealing for these
buyers.  First-time buyers tend to prioritize finishes
and layouts because they want to move in right away
without having to gut the property or conduct a lengthy
remodel.  Of those planning to purchase a luxury home,
40% of current high-end homeowners said they would be
willing to pay over budget, compared with only 29% of
nonluxury homeowners, according to the Realtor.com
data.

Realtytrac – how tight credit is putting the squeeze on housing

Writing about how tight credit is squeezing out first-time
homebuyers, Dr. Kenneth T. Rosen, chairman of the Fisher
Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at UC Berkeley,
penned an illuminating article for the Foreclosure News
Report, on why some would-be homebuyers are being forced to
rent because lenders don’t want to make 30-year loans at
such low interest rates. “Prior to the economic downturn, a
620 FICO with 5% down was an insurable prime loan,” writes
Rosen. “In today’s conventional market, 680 is the new 620.
That line of demarcation is simply too high and squeezes too
many families into higher-cost loans or out of the housing
market completely. We are concerned that many low and
moderate-income families will be forced to remain renters
not by their own choice, but as a result of the cumulative
impact of regulatory rules seeking to create a limited risk
environment.”

Peter Francese, founder of American Demographics magazine,
interviewed for an article titled “The Tenant Trap: Rising
Rents, Falling Incomes, Tight Inventory,” declared that the
American Dream of home ownership is still alive and well in
the United States, even if home ownership rates took a hit
during the Great Recession. “We are not becoming a nation
of renters,” said Francese. “The past six years have been
the worst years for real estate since the Great Depression.
The recession is slowly coming to an end and homeownership
is creeping up. The American Dream is to buy a house and
send your kids to college. That cultural icon is still
operative today.”

Why is Gentry Real Estate Group The Best In The Arizona Foreclosure Market?

Newly started foreclosures head higher in 19 states

While national trends for troubled properties are improving,
there are 19 states where newly started foreclosures are
heading higher, according to data released yesterday.  In
March, there were foreclosure filings on about 117,000
properties throughout the country, up 4% from February, but
down 23% from a year earlier, online foreclosure marketplace
RealtyTrac said. Such filings include default notices,
scheduled auctions and bank repossessions. In addition,
trends show national improvement: For the first quarter,
there were about 342,000 properties with foreclosure
filings, also down 23% from a year earlier.  Looking
nationally, the pipeline of foreclosures has narrowed since
the housing bubble burst. The past year in particular has
seen a rebound for the US housing market, with rapidly
rising prices enabling many troubled borrowers to gain
equity. But at the state level, the foreclosure news is
somewhat darker, with 19 states posting annual growth in
foreclosure starts for the first quarter. A start is the
first public notice of a foreclosure, such as notices for
default or a trustee’s sale. In New Jersey, foreclosure
starts in the first quarter were up 83% from a year earlier,
while starts in Maryland rose 43%, and California posted its
first annual growth since the second quarter of 2012. Starts
trends are rising in states where lenders must go through
the court system to move a borrower into foreclosure, as
well as in non-judicial states, Blomquist said.


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