Oregon’s Shadow Inventory – The “New Normal”?, by Phil Querin, Q-Law.com


The sad reality is that negative equity, short sales, and foreclosures, will likely be around for quite a while.  “Negative equity”, which is the excess by which total debt encumbering the home exceeds its present fair market value, is almost becoming a fact of life. We know from theRMLS™ Market Action report that average and median prices this summer have continued to fall over the same time last year.  The main reason is due to the volume of  “shadow inventory”. This term refers to the amorphous number of homes – some of which we can count, such as listings and pendings–and much of which we can only estimate, such as families on the cusp of default, but current for the moment.  Add to this “shadow” number, homes already 60 – 90 days delinquent, those already in some stage of foreclosure, and those post-foreclosure properties held as bank REOs, but not yet on the market, and it starts to look like a pretty big number.  By some estimates, it may take nearly four years to burn through all of the shadow inventory. Digging deeper into the unknowable, we cannot forget the mobility factor, i.e. people needing or wanting to sell due to potential job relocation, changes in lifestyle, family size or retirement – many of these people, with and without equity, are still on the sidelines and difficult to estimate.

As long as we have shadow inventory, prices will remain depressed.[1] Why? Because many of the homes coming onto the market will be ones that have either been short sold due to negative equity, or those that have been recently foreclosed.  In both cases, when these homes close they become a new “comp”, i.e. the reference point for pricing the next home that goes up for sale.  [A good example of this was the first batch of South Waterfront condos that went to auction in 2009.  The day after the auction, those sale prices became the new comps, not only for the unsold units in the building holding the auction, but also for many of the neighboring buildings. – PCQ]

All of these factors combine to destroy market equilibrium.  That is, short sellers’ motivation is distorted.  Homeowners with negative equity have little or no bargaining power.  Pricing is driven by the “need” to sell, coupled with the lender’s decision to “bite the bullet” and let it sell.  Similarly, for REO property, pricing is motivated by the banks’ need to deplete inventory to make room for more foreclosures.  A primary factor limiting sales of bank REO property is the desire not to flood the market and further depress pricing. Only when market equilibrium is restored, i.e. a balance is achieved where both sellers and buyers have roughly comparable bargaining power, will we see prices start to rise. Today, that is not the case – even for sellers with equity in their homes.  While equity sales are faster than short sales, pricing is dictated by buyers’ perception of value, and value is based upon the most recent short sale or REO sale.

So, the vicious circle persists.  In today’s world of residential real estate, it is a fact of life.  The silver lining, however, is that most Realtors® are becoming much more adept – and less intimidated – by the process.  They understand these new market dynamics and are learning to deal with the nuances of short sales and REOs.  This is a very good thing, since it does, indeed, appear as if this will be the “new normal” for quite a while.

House is Gone but Debt Lives On; Expect Huge Surge in Deficiency Lawsuits, by Mike “Mish” Shedlock


Forty-one states allow lenders to sue for mortgage debt if a home fetches less than the mortgage in a foreclosure sale. It always will. Such lawsuits are one of the reasons I have consistently advised people to consult an attorney before walking away.

For a nice write-up on deficiency judgments please consider the Wall Street Journal article House Is Gone but Debt Lives On.

Joseph Reilly lost his vacation home here last year when he was out of work and stopped paying his mortgage. The bank took the house and sold it. Mr. Reilly thought that was the end of it.

In June, he learned otherwise. A phone call informed him of a court judgment against him for $192,576.71. It turned out that at a foreclosure sale, his former house fetched less than a quarter of what Mr. Reilly owed on it. His bank sued him for the rest.

The result was a foreclosure hangover that homeowners rarely anticipate but increasingly face: a “deficiency judgment.”

Until recently, “there was a false sense of calm” among borrowers who went through foreclosure, Mr. Englett says. “That’s changing,” he adds, as borrowers learn they may be financially on the hook even after the house is gone.

Some close observers of the housing scene are convinced this is just the beginning of a surge in deficiency judgments. Sharon Bock, clerk and comptroller of Palm Beach County, Fla., expects “a massive wave of these cases as banks start selling the judgments to debt collectors.”

Because most targets have scant savings, the judgments sell for only about two cents on the dollar, versus seven cents for credit-card debt, according to debt-industry brokers.

Silverleaf Advisors LLC, a Miami private-equity firm, is one investor in battered mortgage debt. Instead of buying ready-made deficiency judgments, it buys banks’ soured mortgages and goes to court itself to get judgments for debt that remains after foreclosure sales.

Silverleaf says its collection efforts are limited. “We are waiting for the economy to somewhat heal so that it’s a better time to go after people,” says Douglas Hannah, managing director of Silverleaf.

Investors know that most states allow up to 20 years to try to collect the debts, ample time for the borrowers to get back on their feet. Meanwhile, the debts grow at about an 8% interest rate, depending on the state.

Laws vary from state to state and things may depend on whether or not the loan is a recourse loan or not. Once again, before walking away, and before considering a short-sale or bankruptcy, please consult an attorney who knows real estate laws for your state.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com