Will Foreclosures Flood The Northern Virginia Market This Spring?

April 22, 2009

forsalebybankJust in time for the annual Spring Home Buying Season, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are expected to begin filling the store shelves with a brand-new stock of foreclosed homes. Without fanfare, on March 31 they both ended the four-month moratorium on foreclosure sales and evictions they had imposed on servicers of the mortgages they own.

Fannie Mae said in a brief statement from spokesman Brian Faith that “Fannie Mae’s suspension of foreclosure-related evictions concludes as of March 31, 2009. The company has in place special foreclosure sale requirements that take into account the Making Home Affordable program. A foreclosure sale may not occur on any Fannie Mae loan until the loan servicer verifies that the borrower is ineligible for a Home Affordable Modification and all other foreclosure prevention alternatives have been exhausted.”

Brad German, a spokesman for Freddie Mac, said he was “mystified” as to how anyone could be surprised by the ban’s expiration. The idea behind it was to give the government time to create homeowner rescue plans, and that’s been done, he said. Neither agency also expects a flood of homeowners out on the street because the ban is being lifted, he added. “For all practical purposes, people will be in their homes for a while,” despite the ban’s expiration, German said. Fannie and Freddie will need time to approach tenants and homeowners and figure out whether they are qualified for help, he said.

Still, this raises the possibility of a sizable influx of such homes coming to the market beginning as early as the end of this month. I’ve been noting in my recent posts (here and here) that the local inventory is shrinking when one normally expect it to be rising – perhaps this is one reason why, and we may see increases in inventory soon.

Here are some other comments about the situation:

From a post by Ben Martin today on VARBuzz.com (Virginia Association of Realtors):

Anecdotally, we’re hearing that because of the dearth of foreclosure activity, there’s actually very little inventory in the DC metro area. We hear there are buyers galore, many of them incentivized by the dramatic reduction in prices, low interest rates, and the first time homebuyer stimulus package. But the foreclosure activity is so low (and many sellers are unwilling to list their properties for sale, knowing that they can’t sell for what they need to make from the sale) that there’s very little out there for buyers to choose from.

Many industry experts are expecting a dramatic rise in foreclosures over the coming months as Freddie and Fannie have recently halted their foreclosure moratoriums. As this action trickles down to the field, six months worth of foreclosures could flood the market.

About a month ago, Cindy Jones on VaRealEstateTalk.com:

Last fall Freddie Mac along with other lenders put a moratorium on new foreclosure proceedings until the economic stimulus packages worked their way through Congress. Only those properties that had already been through the foreclosure process made their way to the MLS and not even all of those have been listed.

For example one agent in my office who handles Freddie Mac foreclosures has just now received the go ahead to list a few of the properties that had been through the foreclosure process last October and November. Even more interesting is that in one case the owner of the property is still living in the property five months after the foreclosure. A quick look through RealtyTrac.com shows a few hundred properties with the title transfers to a lender, yet none of them have made it to the market. A recent Friday Washington Post showed close to 300 Trustee Sales at the PW Courthouse alone and those properties haven’t hit the market yet either.

From a comment from “Brooks” on a post from Frank Llosa about the problem on FranklyRealty.com:

washpostToday’s [4/21] Washington Post is actually kind of fat for a Tuesday edition. Then you realize that it sports a rather hefty Classified ads section. The “G” section is a solid 20 pages. But, almost all of it is real estate property foreclosure public notices. They start on page G1 and staggeringly run to page G19. They take up almost as much space as the 24-page “A” news and business section. However, employment ads take up less than one column on G19.

I saw this also, and today’s was pretty thick with them as well. Is this the start of a Sick Newspaper Alleviation Program (SNAP)?

My neighbors and I are all pleased to see that a foreclosed home on our little street sold early this week. Better to get them on the market and sold quickly than to have them sit empty for month after month.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®
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If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!


The ‘Mark to Market’ Accounting Rule: What it is and why it is important to you now!

March 12, 2009

If you are not an accounting type, you probably cannot imagine why anyone would care.

Barry Habib of the Mortgage Market Guide put this together a couple of months ago. Congress is discussing the issue this week (you know they are certainly not accounting types) so it will be in the news. Amaze your friends with your knowledgeable explanation.

The financial crisis we are in today was not caused by mortgages or housing, although they were both catalysts. [Kim – Also see my post about these mortgage issues that are related to the problem.] The real reason was an accounting rule called “Mark to Market” (also known as FASB 157).

Few people have a strong grasp of this rule, and even those who do have a tough time explaining it on air due to time restrictions. So let’s take a few minutes to break it down, so you can have the inside track on this very important concept and understand why it represents some great opportunities.

Why does ‘Mark to Market’ exist?

Let’s go back to the stock market crash, which occurred between 2000 and 2002. With the S&P down 49% and the NASDAQ down 71%, many people lost much of their life savings and they were very angry.

Companies like Enron and Arthur Andersen were able to find ways to make their books look more attractive, which was reflected in an artificially inflated stock price.

Both the public and Congress had a call for more transparency in business and hastened the passage of “Mark to Market” accounting.

This is the notion that all assets should be valued as if they were sold on a daily basis. Under the letter of the law, failure to do this conservatively can now result in jail time.

So what’s the problem?

Before we get into what this means for banks, let me make a quick analogy using a scenario that should make perfect sense to you and your clients.

Let’s imagine that you own a house in a neighborhood where all of the houses are priced at around $300,000. Unfortunately, your neighbor, who owns his home free and clear, falls ill and needs emergency cash quickly. Because he is under duress, he must sell the home for $200,000 in order to get the cash he needs right away, even though the home is worth considerably more.

mtm11Now would this mean that your home is now worth the same $200,000 that your neighbor sold his for? Of course not, because you are not forced to sell under duress. It just means that your new neighbor got a great deal.

However, if you were a publicly traded company and had to abide by Mark to Market account rules, you and the rest of your neighbors would now have to say, by law, that your home was worth only $200,000 – not the $300,000 you would get for it if you actually sold. So what’s the big deal? Read on.

So how does this principle apply to banks?

Let’s say we decide to start a bank . . . call it XYZ Bank. We raise $2 Million to open our doors. Remember that our capital account is $2 Million. Banks make money by taking in deposits and paying low rates of interest to those depositors (maybe throw in a toaster too). We then take that money and make loans with it at higher rates. We keep the difference.

mtm2So, we turn the $2 Million worth of deposits into $30 Million worth of loans. This puts our ratio of loans to capital (our Capital Ratio) at 15:1 ($15 Million in Loans to $1 Million in Capital). This level is acceptable, as long as we can shoulder some losses and recover.

Because we are very conservative here at XYZ Bank, the loans we make require a minimum down payment of 30%, a credit score of 800 or better (that’s nearly an 850 which is perfect), proof of income and assets, a reserve of at least two years of mortgage payments (normal is two months) and income requirements that only allow 10% of monthly income to cover all expenses (normal is 40%).

We do this and our loans perform perfectly. We make lots of money. Nobody is paying late and our clients are sending us holiday cards. They love us . . . it’s a party. You and I are celebrating as we see our stock price soar.

But real estate values decline and, even though all of our loans are paying perfectly, we must re-assess the loan portfolio to account for the decline in real estate values, which leaves us with less of an equity cushion. We had a minimum 30% down payment, which means the loans were 70% of the value of our assets – until we account for the decline in the market. Now, our position goes from 70% to 90%. That’s riskier and, therefore, worth less than when our loans had a 70% safety position.

Our accountants tell us that we must “Mark to Market” or risk jail. They say our value is now reduced by $1 Million. Whoa!

We must take or write down this loss against our capital account. It is a paper loss – we don’t write a check, we have no late payers, no defaults, no bad business decisions. Still, we must reflect this $1 Million paper loss in our Capital Account, which drops from a $2 Million to $1 Million in value.

Here’s where things get problematic.

At this level, with $30 Million in loans outstanding, we now have a capital ratio of 30:1. At this level of leverage, alarms begin to sound.

Our ratios are out of the safe zone; we could go under with just a few losses, deposits are in jeopardy. Hello FDIC examiner, we are on the watch list, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is asking questions and our stock starts to tumble. The business networks are showing negative coverage of our now troubled bank. We are in big trouble.

The problem – we are “over-leveraged”. The solution – we have to “de-lever” . . . and do so quickly. But there are only two ways to do that, and one of them isn’t really an option.

toilet

The first way is to raise capital, but that’s not going to happen when our ratios are out of whack and we are in serious trouble as well as on the FDIC watch list. It is unlikely that anyone will be willing to invest cash in XYZ Bank.

The other option is that we can sell assets, like the outstanding loans, which are increasing our capital ratio. Like your neighbor, who owned his home outright but needed cash for medical bills, we are now under duress. The paper we are holding has a lot of value, but we have to sell it quickly and, because of that, cheaply. So, we offload the loans at a loss, which exacerbates the problem because those losses further reduce our capital account.

Very quickly, like a flushing toilet, things start to spiral – we are going down.

The problem multiplies . . . 

The problem doesn’t stop there. The fire sale we just had on our loans makes things worse – even for the banks that bought them up and thought they were getting a great deal.

mtm3Under Mark to Market, the loans we just sold must be included in the comparables that other financial institutions use to value their assets. This is how the problem spread and got so bad so fast. Other good institutions, with good loans, have to mark down. Just like us, they become over-leveraged. It’s a chain reaction, all triggered by a well intentioned, but over-reaching accounting rule.

Financial institutions fold, sell, or freeze. Credit – the life blood of our economy – is cut off at the source. Because of a lack of available credit, home sales and refinances crawl, auto sales drop and jobs are lost. Additionally, the economy enters a recession.

During the last recession in 2001, the economy recovered relatively quickly thanks to $3 Trillion worth of home equity withdrawals. But, more restrictive programs, a lack of available credit, and lower home values will make it difficult for us to use home equity to help pull us out of a recession this time around.

Fixing the Problem

The Federal Reserve has passed a rescue plan, which, over time, will provide some level of help. Some banks will get money to infuse into their capital accounts. Others can sell some assets to the government in an effort to “de-lever”.

But, the big thing that is not talked about, not well understood, is the part of the rescue plan that traces this financial crisis back to the source.

The US Congress has given the SEC its blessing to modify “Mark to Market” accounting. [Kim – A growing number of regulators seem to think some relaxation of the rules may make sense. The top U.S. banking supervisor, Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan, told TIME he is in favor of letting the banks mark back up the value of some of their toxic assets. “I think there are some changes that ought to be made,” Dugan says. Mark-to-market accounting is a problem, he says, for illiquid assets because “those things have just stopped trading altogether.” Dugan does not support doing away with mark-to-market entirely; not even industry lobbyists want that. But his deputy will argue at the congressional hearings on Thursday that limited changes affecting the pricing of illiquid toxic assets should be made.

Others seem to be coming around to the banking industry’s position. On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said he would support changes in pricing illiquid assets. Also this week, investor Warren Buffett said in a CNBC interview that he would favor suspending the mark-to-market rules. Even the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which has long backed these rules, recently asked the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), a private group based in Norwalk, Conn., that sets accounting rules in the U.S., to look into the matter.

The Financial Accounting Standards Board is working on new guidance to help banks determine whether a market is active or inactive and whether a transaction is distressed. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro told Congress on Wednesday that she was pushing FASB to issue the guidance in the second quarter.]

It won’t be eliminated, as we will not want to go back to the Enron days. But [the SEC] is likely to adjust the Mark to Market provisions.

Here’s one potential solution – even rental or commercial real estate properties can be valued two ways:

1. The comparable sales method, which determines the value based on what other assets have sold for, which is the way Mark to Market works currently.

2. A cash flow method, which values the property based upon cash coming in.

If we see Mark to Market modified to use cash flow to value assets, without requiring a large percentage discounting mechanism – wow! What a shot in the arm that would be. We’d likely see the stock market rally, with financial stocks leading the uphill charge.

Consider that [as of the end of 2008] fund managers are holding 27% of their assets in cash, compared with just 3% they held in cash when the stock market peaked in October of 2007. That means there is a lot of money on the sidelines that can push stock prices higher. Additionally, think about the redemptions from hedge funds that eventually need to be put back to work. A good stock market helps individuals feel better about purchasing homes. Additionally, stronger balance sheets for financial institutions will allow them to lend more money.


U.S. job growth, powered by the sun

March 10, 2009

esolarchrisOk, since one of my kids works in the solar industry, this matters a lot to me. Not only that, but let’s use some of that “free” solar power while we still have the sun!

The U.S. solar industry is expected to support more than 440,000 permanent, full-time jobs, including many in the manufacturing and construction industry, by the year 2016. The solar jobs growth layer shows where these jobs are likely to be created across the country. You’ll see that many of these jobs are being created in states that have experienced the worst of the current economic crisis, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio.

Official google.org Blog: U.S. job growth, powered by the sun.


Making Your Home Affordable – The Plan

March 4, 2009

mhalogo

The US government’s Making Home Affordable plan was released this morning. Millions of homeowners wanting to see if they qualify under the plan for either a refinancing or a loan modification will be eager to check out this program.

You might qualify for refinancing under the plan:

  • If the home you want to refinance is your primary residence; and
  • The loan on your home is controlled by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac; and
  • You’re current on your mortgage payments (not more than 30 days late on your mortgage in the last 12 months); and 
  • You have sufficient income to support a new mortgage.

You can owe between 80-105% of the current value of your home, but no higher than 105%.

If you think you might qualify to refinance, you’ll need to give the following documents to your mortgage lender:documents

  • Your monthly gross (before taxes) income of your household, including recent pay stubs.
  • Your last income tax return.
  • Information about any second mortgage on the house (you can only refinance your first mortgage under the plan, but having a second mortgage won’t automatically exclude you).
  • Account balances and minimum monthly payments due on all your credit cards.
  • Account balances and minimum monthly payments for all your other debts, like student loans or car loans.

You might qualify for a loan modification (first mortgage only) under the plan: 

  • If you originated your mortgage before Jan. 1, 2009; and
  • You are an owner-occupant; and
  • You have an unpaid balance that is equal to or less than $729,750 (for a single-family home); and
  • You have trouble paying your mortgage due to financial hardship – perhaps because your  mortgage payments increased, or your income was reduced, or you suffered a hardship (such as medical problems) that increased your bills, or you can show that you soon will be unable to make your payments. You will be required to enter an affidavit of financial hardship; and,
  • Your monthly mortgage payment must be more than 31% of your gross (pre-tax) monthly income.

You must successfully complete a three-month trial period at the modified rate. If you make all payments on time, you will keep this lower rate that will be fixed for five years.

The idea is for your monthly payments (not including private mortgage insurance) to reach 31% of your pre-tax monthly income. The monthly payments are defined as payments on the principal, interest, taxes, insurance (not including mortgage insurance) and homeowners association/condo fees. First, the lender will reduce the interest rate to no less than 2% on the loan, so that the monthly payments are less than 38% of your monthly income. Then, the Treasury will match further reductions, dollar-for-dollar, with your lender, to bring the monthly payments down further, to 31% of your monthly income.

If you keep your payments on time after the modification, the government will pay up to $1,000 each year in the first five years toward reducing the principal on your mortgage.

After five years, the interest rate on the loan will start to increase by no more than 1% per year, but can’t go higher than what the market rate was on the day your loan was modified.

The amount you owe versus the current value of your home doesn’t matter for this program.

The foreclosure process will stop while you’re being considered for the program, or for any alternative foreclosure prevention option.

The borrower does not have to pay any charges or fees. Any fees are supposed to be paid by the company that holds the loan, and the servicer of the loan will pay for your credit report. The company that services your loan will get a an incentive fee of $500 for each modification they do. Once your lender modifies your loan, they’ll be paid a $1,500 incentive.

Gather these required loan modification documents:

  • Information about the monthly gross (before tax) income of your household, including recent pay stubs if you receive them or documentation of income you receive from other sources;
  • Your most recent income tax return;
  • Information about your assets;
  • Information about any second mortgage on the house;
  • Account balances and minimum monthly payments due on all of your credit cards;
  • Account balances and monthly payments on all your other debts such as student loans and car loans;
  • A letter describing the circumstances that caused your income to be reduced or expenses to be increased (job loss, divorce, illness, etc.).

Then call your mortgage servicer (the company you make payments to). Your servicer is not required to join the program, but the government hopes that the incentives will motivate them to participate.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®
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If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!


Ready To Be Stimulized?

February 15, 2009

capitolIt’s a fine mess when Mr. Language Man has to make up words (“stimulized?”). But it’s a pretty messy bill our elected representatives just passed. I’m sure President O would have just preferred to get $800 bill to spend as he needed, when he needed, on whatever he thinks will work. But, nooooo.

I am sure there will be no shortage of articles and blogs on this subject. Still, since I want you to read my blog, here’s a summary of some of the provisions that might be of interest to you:

hometaxcreditRefundable First-time Home Buyer Credit. Last year, Congress provided taxpayers with a refundable tax credit that was equivalent to an interest-free loan equal to 10 percent of the purchase of a home (up to $7,500) by first-time home buyers. The provision applies to homes purchased on or after April 9, 2008 and before July 1, 2009. Taxpayers receiving this tax credit are currently required to repay any amount received under this provision back to the government over 15 years in equal installments, or, if earlier, when the home is sold. The credit phases out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income in excess of $75,000 ($150,000 in the case of a joint return). “Refundable” means that even if you don’t owe any taxes at all, or owe less than the amount of the credit, you will receive the difference in cash after filing.

The new bill eliminates the repayment obligation for taxpayers that purchase homes after January 1, 2009, increases the maximum value of the credit to $8,000 ($4,000 for a married person filing separately), and removes the prohibition on financing by mortgage revenue bonds, and extends the availability of the credit for homes purchased before December 1, 2009. The provision would retain the credit recapture if the house is sold within three years of purchase.

Another important change for our area: reinstatement of the increased conforming loan limits for high cost areas. You may recall that our local conforming loan limits rose from $417,000 to $729,750 last year, giving purchasers of higher end homes an important break on interest rates for loan limits up to that amount. At the end of 2008, the temporary limit expired and it dropped to $625,500. This stimulus bill reinstates that $729,750, which should make it easier to get larger loans which now qualify for Fannie, Freddie and possibly FHA guidelines, which translates to lower rates.

newcarSales Tax Deduction for Vehicle Purchases. The bill provides all taxpayers with a deduction for State and local sales and excise taxes paid on the purchase of new cars, light truck, recreational vehicles, and motorcycles through 2009. This deduction is subject to a phase-out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income in excess of $125,000 ($250,000 in the case of a joint return).

energyauditTax Credits for Energy-Efficient Improvements to Existing Homes. The bill would extend the tax credits for improvements to energy-efficient existing homes through 2010. Under current law, individuals are allowed a tax credit equal to ten percent (10%) of the amount paid or incurred by the taxpayer for qualified energy efficiency improvements installed during the taxable year. This tax credit is capped at $50 for any advanced main air circulating fan, $150 for any qualified natural gas, propane, oil furnace or hot water boiler, and $300 for any item of energy-efficient building property. For 2009 and 2010, the bill would increase the amount of the tax credit to thirty percent (30%) of the amount paid or incurred by the taxpayer for qualified energy efficiency improvements during the taxable year. The bill would also eliminate the property-by-property dollar caps on this tax credit and provide an aggregate $1,500 cap on all property qualifying for the credit.

diploma

“American Opportunity” Education Tax Credit. The bill would provide financial assistance for individuals seeking a college education. For 2009 and 2010, the bill would provide taxpayers with a new “American Opportunity” tax credit of up to $2,500 of the cost of tuition and related expenses paid during the taxable year. Under this new tax credit, taxpayers will receive a tax credit based on one hundred percent (100%) of the first $2,000 of tuition and related expenses (including books) paid during the taxable year and twenty-five percent (25%) of the next $2,000 of tuition and related expenses paid during the taxable year. Forty percent (40%) of the credit would be refundable. “Refundable” means that even if you don’t owe any taxes at all, or owe less than the amount of the credit, you will receive up to 40% of the credit in cash after filing. This tax credit will be subject to a phase-out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income in excess of $80,000 ($160,000 for married couples filing jointly).

A fairly decent 19-page PDF summary of the whole bill – THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT OF 2009 – is available from the Senate Finance Committee website.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

samson-realty-and-birdIt’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service


Things That Make You Say, “Hmmmm . . .”

February 10, 2009

graphLooking at the January 2009 data for the housing market in Northern Virginia (Fairfax and Arlington Counties; Falls Church, Fairfax and Alexandria Cities), the year-over-year trends of the past several months are continuing – sales are up (+39%), active listings are down (-16%), pending sales are up (+23%) and sales prices continue to run 20-25% below those of a year ago, and -30% from two years ago. Average days on market is declining but is still in the 100 range (for sold homes).

The absorption rate has picked up from December’s 5-month figure – we have about 7.5 months of homes on the market now, in the low “buyer’s market” range – largely, I think, because a sizable number of sellers were waiting until after the holidays to put their homes on the market.

There is a lot of action in the sub-$300,000 detached home market. Here are some interesting numbers: 

homesalepriceDetached Homes for sale under $300,000:

  • January 2008   =   55
  • January 2009   =   436

Detached Homes sold under $300,000:

  • January 2008   =   8
  • January 2009   =   90

Here’s another interesting number:

Homes financed through FHA/VA:

  • January 2008   =   39
  • January 2009   =   328
bankrate

So the government guaranteed the mortgages of over 33% of all homes sold in January 2009. In the entire year of 2006, FHA/VA loans totaled 253, or only 1% of sales in Northern Virginia. Wow.

The mortgage market has been volatile and will continue to be, though the federal government will do all it can to hold it down until the economic outlook improves. Rates are now in the 5.4% range for 30-year fixed. The chart from Bankrate.com shows the last 3 months’ rate movements in Virginia.

The government has a lot of things going on – from Congress to the Treasury to the Federal Reserve to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. So many are up in the air that it would be foolish to write about them today.

All the more reason to subscribe to my blog!

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com
It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

samson-realty-and-bird

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service


Fed step toward stalling foreclosures?

January 27, 2009

Here’s a Reuters piece on the Federal Reserve action announced today. Personally, I think it isn’t going to help much at all – it’s fluff to make people think something is being done.8ball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve on Tuesday took a step toward easing mortgage foreclosures threatening millions of Americans, announcing that it would write down troubled mortgages to keep people in their homes.

In a bold effort to unscramble complex mortgage-backed securities at the heart of a financial crisis sparked by the housing market decline, the Fed said it would encourage mortgage servicers to modify loans at risk of default. It will also “assist” the loan servicer in making modifications, according to a document made public by the Fed on Tuesday, entitled “Homeownership Preservation Policy for Residential Mortgage Assets.” The Fed said it would consider reducing the interest rate paid on mortgages at risk of default, extending the term of the loan, and accepting “a deferral or reduction of the outstanding principal balance of the loan,” according to the Fed document.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the initiative would specifically include $74 billion of assets held in connection with the bailout last year of Bear Stearns and American International Group.

“The goal of the policy is to avoid preventable foreclosures on residential mortgage assets that are held, owned or controlled by a Federal Reserve Bank,” he said in a letter to Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House of Representatives financial services committee.

The Fed was instructed by the law last year that authorized a $700 billion bank bailout with public money that it must do what it can to minimize foreclosures.

Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, has been among U.S. lawmakers pressing the Fed and the government to do more to prevent mortgage foreclosures and he said the decision by the Fed was a “major breakthrough.”

Here’s the problem:

  • You have to be at least 60 days late. So hurry up and get 60 days late?
  • You have to be able to make the payments on the modified loan, but not on the existing loan.
  • Loan modification eligibility requires that the modified loan has a greater net present value than the foreclosure. So if you want to keep your home, but it’s not worth their effort, the Fed says, “Nahhh . . .” 
  • It only applies to mortgages the Fed wholly owns or controls, which at the moment are those it took over from Bear Stearns, JP Morgan Chase and AIG, a small subset of the millions forecasted by RealtyTrac to be entering foreclosure proceedings this year. If your mortgage is part of a Mortgage-Backed Security or Collateralized Debt Obligation pool – and it probably is – the Fed can only “encourage the servicer for such securities to implement a loan modification program that is consistent with this policy.” Presumably, such “encouragement” can only include the tactics specified in the US Army Field Manual, but no more.
  • There is no way for homeowners to figure out if their mortgages are being held or controlled by the Federal Reserve. So you have to wait until somebody – anybody – eventually calls you. Hope you can pay your phone bill.

 

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com
It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

samson-realty-and-bird

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service