The Housing Chronicles Blog: "Shadow inventory" of foreclosures remain hidden from the market

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Shadow inventory" of foreclosures remain hidden from the market

One big topic lately in real estate circles has been the issue of bank-owned distressed properties, many of which they've kept off the market in order to keep housing prices from dropping even lower as well as to provide a more orderly clean-up process. Yet in a San Francisco Chronicle article, some experts think that the sheer number of these hidden foreclosures is certain to eventually make a bad situation even worse. So why are lenders keeping such assets hidden? From the article:

A vast "shadow inventory" of foreclosed homes that banks are holding off the market could wreak havoc with the already battered real estate sector, industry observers say.

Lenders nationwide are sitting on hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes that they have not resold or listed for sale, according to numerous data sources. And foreclosures, which banks unload at fire-sale prices, are a major factor driving home values down.

"We believe there are in the neighborhood of 600,000 properties nationwide that banks have repossessed but not put on the market," said Rick Sharga, vice president of RealtyTrac, which compiles nationwide statistics on foreclosures. "California probably represents 80,000 of those homes. It could be disastrous if the banks suddenly flooded the market with those distressed properties. You'd have further depreciation and carnage."...

Most observers say the recent fall-off in foreclosures came because California and many banks implemented foreclosure moratoriums in the fall, not because the problem has diminished...

So why aren't banks selling off their foreclosures?

Observers say several factors are at work.

-- The "pig in the python": Digesting all those foreclosures takes awhile. It's time-consuming to get a home vacant, clean and ready for sale. "The system is overwhelmed by the volume," Sharga said. "In a normal market, there are 160,000 (foreclosures for sale nationwide) over the course of a year. Right now, there are about 80,000 every month."

-- Accounting sleight-of-hand: Lenders could be deferring sales to put off having to acknowledge the actual extent of their loss. "With banks in the stress they're in, I don't think they're anxious to show losses in assets on their balance sheets," O'Toole said.

-- Slowing the free-fall: Banks might be strategically holding back some foreclosures so prices don't fall as fast...

Besides the shadow foreclosures, yet another wave of distressed properties is in the pipeline. These are homes with delinquent payments for which the banks appear to be prolonging the foreclosure process. Some of that could be because they're negotiating with homeowners about loan modifications or other ways to keep them in the home. But banks also could be deliberately foot-dragging for the same three reasons listed above.

Click here for entire article.

1 comment:

Rob Saxe said...

Great post..that's what I'm seeing in my market and I think your assessment is right on..nice work.