Foreclosure Freeze/Shortsales/Market Conditions

The news has been full of headlines about the new crisis in the mortgage industry, this time affecting foreclosures. So it seems like an opportune time to look at not only foreclosures, but also shortsales and the latest market update from RMLS.

The Foreclosure Freeze
There is now discussion that the foreclosure process, which has pretty much swamped the big lenders like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, has been mishandled. The accusation is that the paperwork involved in the foreclosures was often reviewed and processed by unqualified people and by people who did not read what they were signing. I do not know if this is true or not, but I do know that I have counseled people who are in foreclosure who have not only felt powerless, but have felt that the bank was not answering their letters, returning their phone calls, or being responsive. Obviously there is going to be anger for a person in this position. That combined with the current media coverage does make me feel that we will see litigation.

Gregor Watson, a principal with McKinley Partners, recently gave a best to worst case assessment of what this means:
Best case: this is only a technical glitch. It will require some re-tooling of the process, but the process will get back on track and foreclosures will resume. This is needed to allow the glut of foreclosures to work their way through the market and then be out of the inventory.
Medium case: people will enter into significant litigation that could take years to sort out. This could slow and extend the downturn of the housing market.
Worst case: the housing market is brought to a halt because Title Companies refuse to insure mortgages involving foreclosed homes. (This would not bring the entire market to a halt: simply the foreclosures. Still, a big problem)

On the positive side the Philidelphia Inquirer reported yesterday that Bank of America intends to begin resuming foreclosure proceedings stating that they have a legal right to do so despite accusations that documents used in the process are flawed. This bodes well for the possibility that the better scenario may result. We shall see….

When the whole shortsale phenomenon began a few years ago I will admit that I was a skeptic. It reminded me of the buy-a-house-with-credit-cards schemes. Just too simple to be true. Really? You could just ask your bank to forgive part of your mortgage so that you could sell it for less? Really? As time has gone by I have come to see that not only are shortsales here to stay, they are a significant part of the market.

I think shortsales do present remarkable opportunity, as do foreclosures. It allows a house to be sold for market value and not have an asking price that is based upon a value/debt that is several years old. But shortsales are not for everyone. I want to make if very clear that if you are a homeowner considering a shortsale, you need professional and legal advice far beyond the scope of what I am discussing here. So I want to directly address buyers.

The buyer best suited to benefit from a shortsale is the investor. This is because the shortsale is so uncertain and the process takes months. A buyer who is shopping for a home may have the patience for this, but is usually not in a position to wait 3-5 months and then learn that they lost the house to another bid or that the shortsale was not approved. Whereas an investor is not waiting with a moving truck full of furniture. If it works, it works. If not, that’s OK too. For the investor able to be patient, it can present real opportunity. I have personally seen several homes here in Lake Oswego that sold for values that made my jaw drop in the shortsale scenario. Just know what you are getting into.

Keeping it Local
Here in Lake Oswego we currently have an active listing inventory of 626 listings (condos and houses). Of those 37 are Bank-owned Foreclosures and 70 are shortsales. And this means that about 82% of the market is neither a foreclosure nor a shortsale. It’s a home owned by someone who is not in it upside down and who has perhaps even taken loving care of it. So there is a house out there for you whether you are an investor, a home buyer looking for a personal residence, or even a home buyer looking for a personal residence with the patience of an investor.

Also keeping it local, the latest RMLS Market Action Report offers the following information about area 147, which is Lake Oswego and West Linn Combined
Total active listings = 1025
Total pending sales = 84, a decrease of 24.3% over the same time one year ago
Average sales price = $432,200
Average days on the market = 186
Change in values over the same time last year = -9.3%
Change is closed sales, year to date = -22.3%

I consider myself to be a very positive person. The thing to do in this economy is look for how it can work in your favor. That may mean waiting, but that may also mean pouncing on opportunity. The subject today is pretty complex. Please contact Linda or myself for more information, to ask questions, or to get property information. We are here to be of help.

News & Notes

State of the Market:

  • Have We Hit Bottom? The experts agree that generally speaking, the country has “hit bottom”, with various areas lagging behind a bit. predicts that the Portland area will hit bottom in Q3 of this year. Our latest RMLS Market Action Report for the Portland area indicates that Portland metro area closed sales increased 18.4% when comparing 2009 vs 2010. Pending sales rose 45% and new listings rose 12.4%. The average sales price declined 8.5%.

(Money Magazine) — The drama is nearly over. After a decade of extremes — the ebullient highs of the real estate boom, then the devastating lows of the bust — calmer forces are beginning to prevail in the housing market.

  • Local Lake Oswego Data The RMLS Market Action Report lumps West Linn and Lake Oswego together, but here is some interesting data:
    * In February 2010 the average sales price was $457,700.
    * The average time on the market was 153 days.
    * Pending Sales rose 52.7% in Feb 2010 as compared to Feb 2009.
    * The average sales price has declined 9.7% in a rolling 12-month equation (i.e. 3/1/08 – 2/28/09 compared with 3/1/09 – 2/28/10)
  • Rates are Rising I have clients asking  “Is this the right time to buy or should we wait?”  One thing we know is that rates are rising. Right now they are still in the 5% range…  actually they are up a bit today at 5.125% but overall they’ve been fluctuating between 4.875% and 5.125% for 30-yr fixed.  As for more foreclosures to come, and prices lowering… interest rates are rising, some say 7% is possible NY Times… so if you ARE planning to finance, all the experts agree that this is the time to be buying, because even if prices go lower, the fact that the interest rates go up effectively nullifies your benefits.
  • Portland Area Rating Improves “Mortgage insurance companies have upgraded Portland’s property value housing trends, meaning that they predict values to be stabilizing in the Portland market.”  Pat Goodell, Academy Mortgage
  • Tax Credits For first-time home-buyers and “moving-up” buyers, there is still time to find a property you love & get a mutually-agreed deal in place before April 30th. So….  hang in there if you are still looking for that “right” one.  Work with your Realtor to narrow the field, or give Dianne or me a call if you are not working with a Realtor.  (I love working with Buyers…. it is actually the reason I originally got into real estate.)
  • USDA Loans USDA anticipates running out of funds to lend by end-April 2010.  If you are thinking about rural properties and considering a USDA loan, now would be the time to ink an offer.
  • FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums Rising FHA’s upfront (financed) mortgage insurance premium increased to 2.25% effective April 5. And/but, if you are anticipating taking advantage of an FHA loan, don’t fret too much. You WILL now have the higher premium, however,  it’s not anything that should get you in a tizzy, as it will make very little difference in your mortgage payment.  For example, on a $300,000 loan amount, your payment will only increase by approximately $8./month adding in that higher mortgage insurance premium.  (This according to Pat Goodell of Academy Mortgage  503 380 0953.)
  • “The Deal” One thing I am noticing is that many people are becoming so enamored with “the deal” these days, that some are missing the point of why they decided to purchase to begin with, so I am simultaneously always trying to meet my clients needs & desires in a *property* (i.e. what they are trying to accomplish for themselves in their lives w/the purchase… what they truly like), while at the same time being cognizant of the “deal factor” for them.  Keep in mind these things regarding “deals”…  there are basically three kinds:
  1. People who are pricing their homes to sell. They have their own circumstances (down-sizing/relocation/up-sizing/on & on & on), and they are wanting to move on in some fashion.  There are plenty of these out there these days, especially as home owners look around and face the fact that they are now competing with so many homes in or approaching foreclosure.  There are some very real advantages to buying your home from these folks.  Some include: Often these homes are in tip-top shape / You are dealing directly with the owner of the home and as long as the agreed-upon sales price does not dip below what they owe on the property, you are in “Pending” status when you reach mutual acceptance, and /You are negotiating only with the Seller.  / You proceed through a normal closing process if you are taking out a loan, and notwithstanding any negotiations or hoops you need to jump through for the underwriter, you will most likely close in 30-45 days.
  2. Short Sales. These homes’ owners owe more to the bank than what the property is worth in today’s market. The bank is agreeing to take less than what is owed from the Seller.  There are many, many banks in existence and each has its own methods and processes, so there is no uniformity of what to expect, with a few exceptions that I will get into in a moment.  There may be more than one bank involved if there is a second mortgage or more. There are a few things that you can expect, and they are:   * Even if the Seller accepts your offer, the bank is the one (or ones) to give final approval considering that what they will receive is less than what was contracted with the Seller.   ***The bank (s) will usually have paperwork that you must sign if you want to be in the running that will change how the property proceeds through the sale process including: Notifying you that they will only accept an earnest money check & no promissory notes/ They will keep your money and wait to see how many other offers they receive / They will not give you a time line on when they will respond to your offer / You are usually on your own with regard to any repairs / It is usually several months before you find out if your offer was the one accepted & get to proceed to close / During this process the property very often stays in “Active” position on RMLS / Very often the paperwork you must sign includes a provision wherein the bank retains the right to accept another offer right up to closing.   ***For these reasons,  I counsel clients that they must REALLY be in love with a property to proceed through this process.  Also, depending on the property, you may be entering territory wherein you know that you will be competing with other offers, so the best advice, if this is the case, is to make this your best offer… especially if you plan to sit out the long process and want to have a happy ending.  Don’t try to “wing it”… these are complicated times & even the professionals involved are still feeling out the landscape.  There are all kinds of people calling themselves “experts”.  Make sure you know what you are doing and ask for licenses if you think people on the periphery are operating outside of their scope of expertise. Talk to your Realtor as to what your options are, and rely on that trusted professional relationship for guidance.
  3. Bank-owned properties. These homes have usually been through the short sale phase unsuccessfully.  The property has either been on the market & not sold, or the owners opted not to try a short sale and have simply stayed in the property until they had to move on as the bank proceeded through their legal remedies to regain the property due to non-payment.   These properties are sometimes in sad condition due to hardship (i.e. deferred maintenance), but many times these days, they are in very good condition… a sign of the times & the large numbers of otherwise responsible homeowners who simply found themselves in an untenable position through job loss or other factors. The thing to remember about these properties is that the price is ALWAYS lower than either short-sales or standard “good deals”. The bank wants to move on and prices the home low.  The bank is now the Seller and usually acts just like a normal Seller, i.e. Negotiating (tho usually not for repairs)/ accepting or rejecting an offer/Moving on to close with the property going to “Pending” status once it’s mutually agreed-upon/Proceeding through a normal closing process for the Buyer. For this reason: Investors and others are waiting in the wings to pounce on these very often with cash offers, so you have to be quick, and you want to be very careful about low offers, though this can sometimes still be a viable option. Talk to your Realtor about options as they will vary from property to property.

Hope this info is helpful!

Foreclosures vs. Shortsales


With the state of the current economy, there is a lot of attention being paid to the volume of foreclosures as well as shortsales.  These are two different situations that are often confused.  I thought it would be helpful to clarify what they are.


A foreclosure is a bank-owned property (also referred to as an REO property).  The process of foreclosing on a delinquent home owner has been completed and the bank has the full title to the property and the right to sell that property.  A quick look at shows the very sobering statistic that in Lake Oswego right now there are 90 bank-owned properties, there are 17 properties in pre-foreclosure (behind in their house payments) and 587 properties scheduled for auction.  When a home owner falls behind in his or her house payments, there is a multi-month process where the homeowner is notified of the delinquency.  The final step of the forclosure is public auction where the mortgage holder takes the property back for the amount of money that is owed on it.  Bear in mind that the process takes about nine months.  Many of the people currently delinquent or scheduled for auction will find a way to either bring their payments up to date, renegoiate the terms of their loan, or sell the property.  So not all of the homes currently delinquent will become bank owned.  I’d also like to put these numbers in perspective.  Lake Oswego has a population of about 35,000 people.  With an average of 2.3 people per household, that is about 15,000 households.  And with 694 households either in pre-foreclosure or already bank owned, that is about 5% of the households.  Yep, that is sobering.


A shortsale is a house that has a market value of less than what is owed on it and the home owner is attempting to negotiate with their mortgage holder to take a discounted amount so that the property can be sold at current market value.  In this instance, the sale of the home will require a third-party approval (the bank), and may or may not happen.  The process to get this third party approval can take months (I worked with one that took 6 months), so if you are wanting a home that is a shortsale, be prepared to be patient and realize that the approval may or may not occur.


I am often asked how a buyer can find foreclosure and shortsale properties.  The reality is that 99% of them are listed with Realtors and made available on the RMLS.  People who are in distress and trying to sell their home as a shortsale hire Realtors.  And banks with bank-owned properties hire Realtors to sell their inventory of foreclosures.  You don’t need to buy a secret publication or pay for a special list.  These properties are available to the public on the RMLS and any Realtor can gather information on them to help assist you with finding that great deal.


Having said that, I have two areas of caution.  First, a foreclosure is a much better prospect for purchase if you have a time-line you are trying to accomplish.  A foreclosed property that is listed for sale can be purchased within a normal transaction period of 30 to 60 days.  Whereas a shortsale can take months and then may not occur at all.  Second, when you buy a foreclosure it really is buyer beware.  Banks make no representations about the condition of the property and often have their own sale agreements with extensive waivers to protect them from any future liablity.  In both circumstances you should be able to make your offer subject to a home inspection.


OK, I have a third thought.  Be aware that people who loose their homes are people in financial distress.  They go through an extended period where they have no resources to make their house payment much less fix the leaky roof or remodel the ancient kitchen.  So be prepared to see houses that are dirty and in need of repair.  In addiiton, it is not uncommon for these houses to be stripped of appliances and fixtures.  Not all foresclosures and shortsales are project properties, but many are.


So you are looking for the great deal?  Sure, check out the foreclosures and the short sales, but don’t close your mind to the good old homeowner who needs to move and is motivated.  These people will also often sell at great prices, close in a reasonable time frame, and maybe even vaccume the carpet and polish the granite on their way out.  To make the most of the market, look at the entire market.