The number of residential properties for sale has reached the lowest lever in this decade, while prices on the very few transactions have gone up. This is quite the opposite of what analysts, researchers and academics have predicted, as they had expected a wave of foreclosure sales to flood the market and cause prices to drop, affecting property sales for years to come.
The predicted market trend were based on what would happen after the government investigation into faulty paperwork on the banks providing home loans’ side. After all foreclosure investigations would have been concluded, there would have been a large number of homes that then lenders would resell, thus causing the drop in prices. However, two years after the government stepped in to investigate and even after the five biggest mortgage servicers in US settled the case with the federal and state regulators at the beginning of 2012, the wave of foreclosures still failed to come. The big players paid $25 billion, but the deal with banks also meant they were forced to cut deals with homeowners.
Data from the National Association of Realtors shows the index of pending home resales climbed 5.2% in October, while the median price for home sales in the same month was up 11% from 2011, the steepest annual increase since November 2005. Not such a big surprised if one considers the fact that 309,385 borrowers were given loan relief by the five largest U.S. mortgage servicers since March 2012. A report by Joseph Smith released in mid November shows a little under 22,000 borrowers had principal forgiveness totaling $2.55 billion, while another 113,000 borrowers won bank approval for short sales, meaning $13.1 billion in principal writedowns.
The wave of foreclosures seems even further with federal government loan-modification programs and as interest rates that reached a record low led to a spike in mortgage refinancing, helping homeowners to keep up their payments by decreasing the sums they have to pay every month. “The Federal Reserve Bank of New York had estimated that as many as 1.8 million properties would be taken back by banks in 2012. Yet through October, there have been only about 559,000 home seizures, according to RealtyTrac,” state John Gittelsohn and Prashant Gopal of Businessweek.
“In hindsight, by delaying and prolonging the foreclosure process, that gave the market time to stabilize and get back on its feet,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac, which warned a year ago that huge numbers of foreclosed homes were going to hit the market. “Maybe bureaucracy is actually helping, in this case, to diffuse the impact of the foreclosures. Talk about unintended consequences.”
While the number of properties for sale is extremely low, it does not mean there were no foreclosure sales. Institutional investors such as Blackstone Group and Colony Capital have actually bought thousands of foreclosed properties in bulk, long before they hit the market, but instead of reselling them, they chose to rent them.
While the facts contradict expert’s predictions, massive foreclosures hitting the market is still quite the threat, especially as a quarter of US homeowners still owe more than their property’s worth and as the economy has not made a full recovery as of yet.