This emphasizes my mantra to act quickly, always, but even more so now....
Postponing the Day of Reckoning
By Kate Berry, American Banker
August 26, 2009
Pick up just about any city's newspaper or turn on any news show, and if the topic is real estate, the banking industry is likely being lambasted for foreclosing on troubled homeowners.
But industry data and anecdotal evidence suggest banks and servicers have been dragging out the process – not rushing to kick people out of their homes.
Granted, the deferrals may not be motivated by compassion, or even political pressure. Rather, banks and mortgage investors want to avoid repossessing hundreds of thousands of homes, which would produce losses and hits to capital.
"The goal is to hold off on foreclosures and take losses as slowly as possible to keep balance sheets up," said Deborah Voelz, the chief financial officer of National Asset Direct Inc., a New York buyer and servicer of distressed loans. "Everyone is looking at what the ultimate loss is going to be and whether it makes sense to hold off another year or two and mitigate the results."
The foreclosure process -- and it is a process -- now takes, on average, 18 months to two years, up from 15 months a year ago, according to Amherst Securities Group LP. Backlogs in county courts and at servicing companies, along with local government moratoriums, have contributed to the delays. But plenty of signs indicate that the mortgage companies themselves are in no hurry to seize their collateral.
Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at RealtyTrac Inc., an Irvine, Calif., company that monitors foreclosure filings, said banks often start proceedings but then decide "they don't want the property" and suspend the process indefinitely.
Of the 2.3 million homes that received foreclosure notices last year, one-third had been repossessed by yearend, according to RealtyTrac.
Banks also "are allowing borrowers to be delinquent for longer and longer periods of time before initiating foreclosures," Sharga said.
Tom Booker, a senior vice president in the default information unit at First American Corp. in Santa Ana, Calif., concurred. "There are borrowers who are six or eight months in default; they may have exhausted their workout options; but they're put on a forbearance plan because it's an interim to a final resolution, which is foreclosure," he said. "Banks don't want to take the losses now."