Calculated Risk: Are lenders “procrastinating” on foreclosures?

August 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

From Jeff Horwitz and Kate Berry at American Banker: Procrastination on Foreclosures, Now ‘Blatant,’ May Backfire

[S]ervicers are not initiating or processing foreclosures at the pace they could be.

By postponing the date at which they lock in losses, banks and other investors positioned themselves to benefit from the slow mending of the real estate market. But now industry executives are questioning whether delaying foreclosures — a strategy contrary to the industry adage that “the first loss is the best loss” — is about to backfire. With home prices expected to fall as much as 10% further, the refusal to foreclose quickly on and sell distressed homes at inventory-clearing prices may be contributing to the stall of the overall market seen in July sales data.

Banks have filed fewer notices of default so far this year in California … than they did 2009 or 2008, according to data gathered by [RadarLogic]. Foreclosure default notices are now at their lowest level since the second quarter of 2007, when the percentage of seriously delinquent loans in the state was one-sixth what it is now.

New data from LPS Applied Analytics in Jacksonville, Fla., suggests that the backlog is no longer worsening nationally — but foreclosures are not at the levels needed to clear existing inventory.

“The industry as a whole got into a panic mode and was worried about all these loans going into foreclosure and driving prices down, so they got all these programs, started Hamp and internal mods and short sales,” said John Marecki, vice president of East Coast foreclosure operations for Prommis Solutions … “Now they’re looking at this, how they held off and they’re getting to the point where maybe they made a mistake in that realm.”

“The math doesn’t bode well for what is ultimately going to occur on the real estate market,” said Herb Blecher, a vice president at LPS. “You start asking yourself the question when you look at these numbers whether we are fixing the problem or delaying the inevitable.”

There is much more in the article.

Note: The LPS delinquency data for July will be released tomorrow. Here are some of the findings (no link):

• July showed an astounding 24.5% month-over-month increase in foreclosure starts, which dovetails with Treasury’s latest report on HAMP cancellations (approx. 50% according to Treasury’s numbers)
• Abysmal foreclosure rates in NV, FL and CA have led to much higher level equity loss for homeowners in those states as compared to the rest of the country.
• Cure rates remain steady, but seriously delinquent (6 mos.+) cures have declined significantly, by approximately 25%
• Origination remains depressed due to much stricter underwriting guidelines and low purchase activity, but what is being originated is of good quality.
• Until the deterioration ratio improves from its steady two deteriorations for every one improvement, it’s hard to see how we’re going to get out of the hole.

The report shows the GSEs are stepping up foreclosures.

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