Hundreds of thousands of homes in the US are now labeled as "zombie" foreclosures. That's when the owner of a foreclosed home leaves only to find out years later that he or she still legally owns the home and is on the hook for property taxes and other fees. Such cases occur in more than a third of foreclosures,
industry figures show. Although it's hard to quantify
exactly how many homes fall into the category, real estate information company RealtyTrac says that, in the first three months of the year, roughly 302,000 homes qualified as "zombie" properties because the owner has moved out, but the bank has not yet taken possession.
Most of these homes are located in Florida, where RealtyTrac identified some 91,000 zombie properties.
Distantly, Illinois had nearly 32,000 such foreclosures, and California had roughly 29,000.
Although they had fewer such cases in total numbers, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have the highest percentages of zombie foreclosures at 50% or more.
Hawk vs dove in the fed
One of the Federal Reserve's most hawkish officials confronted one of the institution's most dovish policymakers on Tuesday in a rare joint public debate over the risks posed to inflation by the US central bank's bold steps to spur growth. Policy dove Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and anti-inflation hawk Jeffrey Lacker, chief of the Richmond Fed, sparred pointedly and respectfully disagreed. Evans stressed that the Fed was still "missing tremendously" on the employment side of its dual mandate, while its other charge, inflation, was well under its 2% goal. "Our credibility will be judged by how we do on both sides of the mandate," he told a dinner event hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University.
Evans, a voting member of the policy-setting committee this year, was the key Fed leader who advocated for introducing thresholds for unemployment and inflation to guide expectations about how long it would hold rates near zero. He said that recent payroll reports had been very positive and the economy looked like it would achieve "escape velocity" next year of 3.5% growth. But Evans sounded a note of caution over swiftly scaling back the Fed's bond buying, and said that he wanted to see month-after-month of plus-200,000 new jobs created to be assured the labor market was on a durable upswing. "At some point we will reduce the flow rate and end this program. But it could well be later in the year, or whatever. We're just going to have to look at the data and see how things play out,"
he said, while also stressing inflation was under control.
In contrast, Lacker, a hardline hawk who dissented at every policy meeting last year, cited hard lessons from history of what happened when the Fed allowed inflation to get out of hand. "I'm not confident we can dial up expected inflation ... and then dial it down," Lacker told the dinner audience. He also voiced concern the central bank would be willing to exit from its policy actions in time, and that a delay would sow the seeds of future inflation. "I see upside risks starting year and half, two years from now," he told the audience.
They were introduced by former Richmond Fed President Alfred Broaddus, who described them as the closest things to polar opposites on the Fed's policy committee as possible to find.
WSJ - mortgage gamble pays off for Wells
Wells Fargo & Co. has become the dominant US mortgage lender, grabbing an unprecedented 28.8% share of all home loans issued nationwide last year, up from 11.2% in 2007, the year before it bought Wachovia. Its home-loan production hit $524 billion last year, the largest annual total ever for one lender and greater than the output of the next five largest lenders combined, according to the publication Inside Mortgage Finance. In the lucrative Manhattan market, Wells issued almost 20% of new home loans—almost equal to the volume of its two biggest competitors together, according to real-estate research firm CoreLogic Inc.
In San Francisco, it made 21% of new loans, in Los Angeles, 12%, and in Dallas, 9%. Less than half a decade after nearly bringing down the US financial system, mortgage lending is again churning out big profits for American banks. The lowest mortgage rates in more than 60 years have sent homeowners on a refinancing binge. Banks, after being burned badly by sloppy lending before the financial crisis, have tightened their credit standards, making their new loans much safer.
US triple threat
The US became a financial markets' triple threat in the first quarter, with US equities, US government bond yields and the US dollar all rising in tandem—something that rarely occurs for any sustained period. Indeed, looking back to the early 1970s when the dollar started floating, a US triple threat (positive returns for the S&P 500 and the trade-weighted dollar, along with rising US 10-year bond yields) only occurred 15% of the time. The last time we saw these US assets kicking it together in a Rockettes-like lockstep for a quarter or longer was 2005. There are at least three takeaways from this first-quarter financial anomaly.
1. The US economy is leading the global pack—despite fiscal headwinds. US economic momentum in early 2013 positively surprised, and is greater than economic growth occurring overseas. This, in turn, is leading capital to the US and supporting local assets. That same relative view of the world is also boosting US yields, as investors price in tighter US monetary policy over time. Consider equities: in the first quarter, global equity mutual funds and ETFs saw some
$107 billion in total inflows, the strongest quarterly flow since 2000 and with capital biased towards the US
2. The American investor remains cautious: we are a long way from needing to worry about irrational exuberance. Despite the first-quarter move towards stocks, we are not seeing similar capital shifts into other assets that would reflect a stronger cyclical view. Commodities, for instance, which should at least partially reflect demand expectations, fell more than 1% in the first quarter, using the Dow Jones-UBS index.
In addition, the type of equities that performed best in the first quarter—defensive sectors such as consumer staples, health care and utilities— suggested investors were not aggressively betting on economic strength but rather just wanted to get a little cash back into the market, seeking yield as much as capital appreciation from stable large-cap firms.
3. The US is not the only country with an implicit weak currency policy. Indeed, other countries beat the US in the "race to debase" in the first quarter. The Japanese yen lost nearly 8% against the dollar in the first three months of 2013, as the Bank of Japan pledged to do 'whatever it takes' to stamp out deflation. The British pound, meanwhile, fell 6.5% versus the dollar, in part on expectations that the Bank of England would tolerate higher inflation for longer as a price to pay for a stronger economy. The euro underperformed the dollar by nearly 3%, in part as non-existent growth and renewed peripheral stress (Cyprus and Italy) led investors to expect a greater easing bias from the European Central Bank.
CoreLogic Home price index up
CoreLogic today released its February CoreLogic HPI report. Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased 10.2% on a year-over-year basis in February 2013 compared to February 2012. This change represents the biggest year-over-year increase since March 2006 and the 12th consecutive monthly increase in home prices nationally. On a month-over-month basis, including distressed sales, home prices increased by 0.5% in February 2013 compared to January 2013.
Excluding distressed sales, home prices increased on a year-over-year basis by 10.1% in February 2013 compared to February 2012. On a month-over-month basis, excluding distressed sales, home prices increased 1.5% in February 2013 compared to January 2013. Distressed sales include short sales and real estate owned (REO) transactions. The CoreLogic Pending HPI indicates that March 2013 home prices, including distressed sales, are also expected to rise by 10.2% on a year-over-year basis from March 2012 and rise by 1.2% on a month-over-month basis from February 2013. Excluding distressed sales, March 2013 home prices are poised to rise 11.4% year over year from March 2012 and by 2.0% month over month from February 2013. The CoreLogic Pending HPI is a proprietary and exclusive metric that provides the most current indication of trends in home prices. It is based on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data that measure price changes for the most recent month.
Highlights as of February 2013:
- Including distressed sales, the five states with the highest home price appreciation were: Nevada (+19.3%), Arizona (+18.6%), California (+15.3%), Hawaii (+14.6%) and Idaho (+13.5%).
- Including distressed sales, this month only three states posted home price depreciation: Delaware (-4.4%), Alabama (-1.5%) and Illinois (-1.0%).
- Excluding distressed sales, the five states with the highest home price appreciation were: Nevada (+18.3%), Arizona (+16.4%), Hawaii (+15.5%), California (+15.3%) and Idaho (+15.3%).
- Excluding distressed sales, only one state, Delaware
(-1.9%) posted home price depreciation in February.
- Including distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change in the national HPI (from April
2006 to February 2013) was -26.3%. Excluding distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change in the HPI for the same period was -19.3%.
- The five states with the largest peak-to-current declines, including distressed transactions, were Nevada (-50.8%), Florida (-43.3%), Michigan (-39.0%), Arizona (-38.5%) and Rhode Island (-36.4%).
- Of the top 100 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) measured by population, 96 were showing year-over-year increases in February, up from 94 in January.
MBA - mortgage applications down
Mortgage applications decreased 4.0% from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending March 29, 2013. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 4.0% on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index also decreased 4% compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 6% from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 1% from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 2% compared with the previous week and was 4% higher than the same week one year ago.
“Total purchase applications increased last week, due to an almost 7% increase in purchase applications for government loans. This was likely driven by borrowers applying for loans prior to the scheduled increase in FHA premiums that took effect on April 1,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Vice President of Research and Economics. “On a year over year basis, purchase applications are up about 4%, in line with the trend we are seeing in home sales volumes.” The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 74% of total applications from 75% the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity remained constant at 5% of total applications. The HARP share of refinance applications decreased to 28% from 29% the prior week.
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About the author:
Chris McLaughlin is widely known as America’s top Real Estate Attorney and Investment Consultant.
* As the top Florida foreclosure and pre- foreclosure expert, he oversees more than
100 short sale & REO closings each month
* Long-time authority on real estate investing and rapid reselling of distressed homes. Owns portfolio of nearly 150 high-value, high-profit properties
* Owner of one of Florida's largest Real Estate firms, running 4 different offices, supporting over
420 agents, uniquely positioning him to help thousands of investors make money in the biggest market opportunity ever!
* In 2011, Chris' 4 Central Florida real estate offices closed 3,336 sides for a closed sales volume of $430,902,643!
* Highly sought-after speaker, consultant, and seminar leader for current trends and hot topics in Real Estate Investing, Entrepreneurship, and Wealth Building