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Banks Walking Away From Homes, Record Foreclosures and More: The Week in Housing

Ryan Hinricher
3 min read

What happens when banks walk away from homes? Will 2011 break 2010’s record year for foreclosures? We’ll answer these questions and get an update on mortgage application activity, interest rates, and some final thoughts on the week.

2010: Record-Setting Year for Foreclosures

RealtyTrac released its Year-End 2010 US Foreclosure Market Report. The numbers paint a dismal year for the overall housing market in 2010. There were a total of 3.8 million foreclosure filings and actual bank repossessions topped 2.8 million. This represented an increase of 2% in 2009 and a 23% increase over 2008. An incredible 1 in 45 homes in America received a foreclosure notice in 2010.

You might be thinking, “How could this positive for the market in any way?” The flip side of this report shows us that tremendous number of delinquent loans have been worked off the books. With another year of soft home-building, and projected high foreclosures, the market will be absorbing even more inventory, improving the fundamentals of the overall housing economy. This year is expected to show a similar number of foreclosures and it won’t be until 2012 that we see this number drop significantly. My belief is the recovery will be finally become apparent when this happens.

Interest Rates Soften Further

Interest rates declined a bit further this week as the 30-year fixed mortgage dropped from 4.77% to 4.71%. The 15-year fixed also fell from 4.13% to 4.08%. Overall, rates dropped as weaker than expected economic data dominated the week. Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist of Freddie Mac stated, “Bond yields drifted lower following the release of the December employment report, which was weaker than the market consensus forecast and implied the labor market is still in a sluggish recovery.”

With good economic data slowing recently, the market is reacting accordingly. My bet is that this will be temporary as early 2011 economic data will show companies are spending excess capital on infrastructure investment, and ultimately doing some hiring. However, the current lower rates represent good news for investors who saw a year of super-low interest rates vanish in a month’s time.

Mortgage Purchase Applications: Down

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported a decline in mortgage purchase applications of 3.7% for the week ending January 7th. The seasonally-adjusted Purchase Index is down 1% over the last 4-weeks. The Refinance Index was up 4.9% for the week. Because of refinances representing 72% of all mortgage applications, the overall Market Composite Index reported a 2.2% gain.

Town again is somewhat concerning. In November and December we saw healthy economic data coming out. The data as of late points to the recovery being very sluggish. This has directly affected consumer sentiment, and ultimately consumer behavior towards spending.

Now the BANKS Walk Away

This report on banks walking away from homes by the Chicago Tribune might make your stomach turn. Banks are now the latest to walk away from homes leaving a big mess for both neighborhoods and municipalities. The Woodstock institute discovered that nearly 1900 homes were abandoned by mortgage service providers in Chicago. Banks are determining that the cost of foreclosure, securing homes, maintaining, and marketing exceeds the value they can recoup from property sales.

If you aren’t shocked by this, you should be. This means that some of the hardest hit areas just got hit harder. I think these areas are dragging down the overall recovery skewing the numbers. I’ve been working primarily in areas with median-home prices and I see inventory move quickly and prices highly stabilized. When you factor in low-income neighborhoods the housing market looks awful.


As we start 2011, we’re certain to see the 2nd leg down in home prices. As I mentioned in the last paragraph, the low-end is dragging down the recovery. I believe the same is happening on the top end. If a $1mm home forecloses for $500k, then that marked just lost $500k on that transaction. This coupled with homes at the lowest end being stuck, and no one seems to notice all the activity in the middle.

What does your market look like? I’d love to hear some feedback.

Photo Credit:  NYCWebBoy

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.