Banks Banking Their Foreclosures?

This post was written by jd on April 9, 2009
Posted Under: Real Estate

Are the banks holding off putting some of their foreclosures on the market? It looks like they might be to keep the prices of the real estate market from plunging further. Another reason could be that it helps them appear more solvent then they really are.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle

“Lenders nationwide are sitting on hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes that they have not resold or listed for sale, according to numerous data sources. And foreclosures, which banks unload at fire-sale prices, are a major factor driving home values down.

“We believe there are in the neighborhood of 600,000 properties nationwide that banks have repossessed but not put on the market,” said Rick Sharga, vice president of RealtyTrac, which compiles nationwide statistics on foreclosures. “California probably represents 80,000 of those homes. It could be disastrous if the banks suddenly flooded the market with those distressed properties. You’d have further depreciation and carnage.”

In a recent study, RealtyTrac compared its database of bank-repossessed homes to MLS listings of for-sale homes in four states, including California. It found a significant disparity – only 30 percent of the foreclosures were listed for sale in the Multiple Listing Service. The remainder is known in the industry as “shadow inventory.”

“There is a real danger that there is much more (foreclosure) inventory than we are measuring,” said Celia Chen, director of housing economics at Moody’s Economy.com in Pennsylvania. “Eventually those homes will have to be dealt with. If they’re all put on the market, that will add more inventory to an already bloated market and drive down home prices even more.”

In November of last year, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ordered their loan servicers and attorneys not to evict about 16,000 troubled borrowers or sell their homes until they implement a streamlined loan modification program. This might prevent some foreclosures, but the numbers of homeowners facing foreclosures have increased since then.

Where’s the bottom? As I posted yesterday, there are some signs of increased sales and improvement in the economy, so maybe we’re there and maybe not.

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