. . . Foot-Dragging Ostriches?

Just a heard a very thorough — and harrowing — overview of the foreclosure picture nationally from Rick Sharga, a senior executive at RealtyTrac.

His company compiles one of the most complete databases tracking foreclosures, so he’s speaking from authority.

What does he see?

–The housing mess is going to persist longer than is currently projected, because rising unemployment is exacerbating the problems with dubious mortgages — especially Option-ARM’s — originated when the housing market was flying high.

Think of it as two rivers merging into a mega-river.

So when does he expect to sound the “all-clear,” signifying a return to “normal” housing market conditions?

Not before 2012, and perhaps 2013 (no, not a typo).

–Peel back all the confusing statistics, short-term noise, etc. and the current foreclosure numbers are staggering.

According to Sharga, prior to 2009, there’s never been a month where the number of foreclosure notices exceeded 300,000. Just so far in 2009, there have already been seven such months.

–Conventional wisdom is that every 6-10 job losses result in one foreclosure. However, because there’s typically a 3-6 month lag, there are lots more foreclosures in the “pipeline.”

Foreclosure Pain: 4 More Years

More gloomy news:

–Foreclosure pain has metastasized, spreading from places like Southern California, Florida and Arizona to previously unaffected places like Portland, Boise, and the northern Virginia suburbs.

–A combination of logistical delays, federal intervention, and the banks’ self-interest are keeping many would-be foreclosures off the market — for now.

According to Sharga, a bank that forecloses on a home can expect to incur $100 a day managing it, paying the utilities, taxes, etc. That comes to about $36k a year.

Now assume that the bank originally lent the homeowner $600k, and that the home is currently only worth $300k. When the home sells in foreclosure, the bank stands to lose more than 8x its annual carrying charge.

What initially looks like ostrich-like behavior on the banks’ part suddenly seem quite rational!

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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