This week Bruce is joined by Sean O’Toole. Sean is president and founder of ForeclosureRadar. He has successfully purchased and flipped over 150 commercial and residential properties in foreclosure. He has leveraged the software industry for 15 years to make a successful trustee sale business.
Sean does not believe we will see a growth in REOs in 2011. He believes we should see a growth in REOS, but we won’t. Since September 2008, when the financial world drastically changed, foreclosures have just been trickling out. He thinks this fact is due to bank and financial institution solvency.
Sean tracks the amount of time a property remains in the foreclosure process. In California, that time period is now up to 285 days, but it should only take 120 days. The average delinquency period for homes before reaching the foreclosure process is 334 days. If you add 334 days on top of the 285 days for the foreclosure process, it is a long period of time.
Some bills are being suggested right now to end the HAMP program and the Neighborhood Stabilization program. Sean believes those programs have been largely irrelevant from the beginning. In California, the total amount of money given to neighborhood stabilization was equivalent to one week of foreclosures. The billions of dollars spent on these programs seems like a lot of money, but when you look at the big picture, it really is not.
Sean’s company created a short sale tool because he wanted to give realtors and homeowners a way to see if certain lenders are approving short sales or not. Sean believes this is a very important resource, and he will be promoting it a lot this year. Wachovia was very good at approving short sales last year, and realtors that focused on Wachovia deals were able to perform more deals than other realtors.
ForeclosureRadar has also added multiple title related services. These services are primarily for auction investors who are interested in the state of a property. ForeclosureRadar offers links to county indexes, and webinars to train investors on how to look up title issues and figure out whether or not you are buying a first or second. Knowing the position of your loan is critical, because if you buy a second then you still have to pay for the first.
The average opening bid at the end of January 2011 was $254,000, and at the beginning it was $261,000. At the end of January average, about 80% go back to the bank, so that price range is still too high for most buyers. The average debt of a foreclosure by the end of January 2011 was $397,000, and at the beginning of the year it was $385,000. We have not seen a big change in the kind of inventory being foreclosed on.
The average opening bid for a foreclosure property is 15% above market value. Properties purchased by third parties are typically 25% below market value. If a lender successfully sells at a trustee sale, they typically take a 43% hit. Sean still sees properties going for sale at 50% of what they are worth. This is why programs like HAMP have been so ineffective in high equity states like California and Florida, because the problem is not payment affordability, the problem is the fact that they are 50% under water. When their payment adjusts back to a full rate, they will still not have the income level necessary to pay off their house. Also, unemployment and job transfers can occur which severely dampens a family’s ability to pay.
Lenders have not discovered whether or not drop bids, short sales, or REO sales make the maximum profit, and Sean does not think they are too concerned about that. Many things are controlled by servicers who do not suffer a loss from the losses they help cause.
FHA is developing a program for short refis. Obama is supportive of these programs to keep people in their homes, but on the other hand, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are concerned with maintaining equity.
A 30 page document just came out which discussed the future of financing. The goal of the document was to tell people that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will not exist. Sean believes this would be a good thing. He does not like our current 0% interest rate policy. We have baby boomers close to retirement, and they cannot make a decent living on fixed income in a zero interest rate environment. You could have saved a million dollars, but if you put it into something with nearly zero risk, such as a T Bill, you would be living off of $30,000 per year.
The U.S. has $14 trillion in debt right now. We have 115 million households, but only half of those households pay taxes. Of those tax payers, the top 20% pay about 80% of all taxes.
Currently, banks are being incentivized to push commercial foreclosures into the future, rather than deal with them now. The FDIC would be insolvent if they had to get rid of foreclosures in a timely matter. We have changed the accounting rules from mark-to-market to mark-to-model. The mark-to-model philosophy is driven by the idea that certain assets will increase in the future, which encourages businesses to set aside less for loan loss reserves.
As a nation, we went from a 45% debt to equity ratio, so we had 4.5 trillion dollars worth of residential mortgage debt on 10 trillion dollars of real estate. At the peak, we went to 10.5 trillion dollars worth of mortgage debt on a false market value of 20 trillion dollars. That market value was fictitious, and our market value is down to 13$ trillion, but we still have about $10 trillion in debt. We created about $4 trillion in excess debt, which we fundamentally do not have the proper level of household income to afford. In California, we have 2.8 million homeowners who either have negative equity or don’t have enough equity to sell their house and pay commissions. In Nevada, the loan to value ratio is 123%. They owe 23% more in their mortgages than what their real estate is worth.
The next big pile of REOs will probably come from HUD. FHA has a program to perform short sale refis. It required the lender to take at least a 10% hit, and a loan to value rate of at least 115%. FHA would provide government insurance on a loan up to 115% of the house’s value for the purpose of refinancing, so long as the lender would take a 10% principal loss. They have had difficulty getting this program off the ground, and now they are talking about ending the program.
Sean believes real estate prices will decline this year. However, Sean is a believer in holding real estate. He also believes the only way out of our debt problem is inflation, and real estate is a good investment during inflationary times.
Sean’s website is www.ForeclosureRadar.com
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Tags: bruce norris, commercial, employment, fannie mae, FDIC, FHA, foreclosure, Foreclosure Radar, ForeclosureRadar, freddie mac, hamp, homeowner, HUD, lender, neighborhood stabilization, properties, realtor, reo, residential, SEAN OTOOLE, short sale, the norris group, Wachovia