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Desperation in the Housing Market

Written by Gary North on February 16, 2012

I wrote in 2011 that 2012 would be the year when sellers would finally panic. The market would continue down.

Now we find that foreclosures are on the rise. This will continue all year.

The sellers who have held on, hoping for a reversal, will see their dreams smashed in the summer of 2012. Their homes will not sell. Competition from foreclosures will make sales impossible art anything like 2011’s prices. The sellers should have sold last year. They will begin to understand this in August.

Here is the situation.

One in every 624 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing in January, up 3 percent from the previous month, according to a new report from RealtyTrac. Foreclosure activity froze in many states in 2011, due to processing delays after fraud, or so-called “Robo-signing,” were uncovered in the fall of 2010. The thaw is now on.

“We expect the pattern of increasing foreclosures to continue in the coming months, especially given the finalized mortgage and foreclosure settlement reached in early February between 49 state attorneys general and five of the nation’s largest lenders,” said RealtyTrac’s CEO Brandon Moore in a written release. “Foreclosure activity increased on a year-over-year basis for the first time in more than 12 months in Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania, following a pattern we saw in late 2011 in states such as California, Arizona and Massachusetts.”

While states that do not require a judge to preside over foreclosure proceedings, like California, saw a jump in filings toward the end of last year, judicial states have all but stalled. That will now change, thanks to the $26 billion dollar government-lender/servicer settlement. There will still be some delays on individual state levels, but the wheels are turning again, and that means more bank repossessions and more foreclosed properties heading to the re-sale market.

Bank repossessions, the final stage of the foreclosure process, increased at least 30 percent year-over-year in several states, including Massachusetts, which saw a 75 percent spike. Bank-owned or REO (real estate owned) activity hit a 16-month high in Illinois and a 15-month high in Indiana. Default notices, the first stage of foreclosure, were flat nationally in January, but spiked in judicial states, like Connecticut and Pennsylvania (up 112 percent) and even in non-judicial states like Maryland (up 100 percent).

Distressed sales lower the value of houses in the neighborhood. This makes it hard to get loans with low down payments.

How many houses are in “shadow inventory”? Millions. No one knows how many millions.

Mortgage rates are low. This favors buyers who qualify.

There will be bargains. There will be desperate sellers. The market by the end of summer will be a buyer’s market.

Continue Reading on www.cnbc.com

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