Western States See Big Drop in Foreclosure Sales–>
Nevada has long held the No. 1 spot for the most foreclosures in the nation. And while it still does, a dramatic shift is taking place in the state. Foreclosure sales dropped 40 percent in February in Nevada, according to foreclosure data of western states by ForeclosureRadar.
Other western states hard-hit by foreclosures are also seeing big improvements in a reduction to foreclosure sales. Foreclosure sales dropped in Oregon by 32 percent, 22 percent in California, 17 percent in Arizona, and nearly 7 percent in Washington.
Nevada has seen dramatic decreases in its foreclosure sales and filings since the state implemented a new law that says lenders can be held criminally liable for any errors made in the foreclosure process. Other states are considering adopting similar measures.
While states have seen a drop in foreclosure sales, some state are continuing to see an increase in foreclosure filings, a sign that the foreclosure crisis is not completely behind hard-hit western states. For example, foreclosure filings increased 39 percent in Oregon and 6 percent in Arizona in February. However, ForeclosureRadar notes that the spikes were offset by steep declines in the month prior.
Source: “Nevada Foreclosure Filings and Sales Plunge: ForeclosureRadar,” HousingWire (March 13, 2012)
Groups Step Up to Stop ‘Forced’ Homeowners Insurance–>
Home insurance policies are generally a requirement in order for borrowers to get a home loan, and for those home owners who let their policies lapse or don’t buy it on their own, mortgage companies can do it for them. The result is often pricey homeowners insurance that home owners are then billed for.
Federal and state officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the high cost of these “force-placed insurance” policies, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently announced that it plans to issue rules “to prevent [mortgage] servicers from charging for this product unless there is a reasonable basis to believe that borrowers have failed to maintain their own insurance.”
Fannie Mae is also cracking down on these forced policies because it says that this type of coverage is usually much more expensive and makes it tougher for home owners to afford their payments. If the home owner falls into foreclosure, Fannie Mae then gets stuck with the bill.
“Fannie Mae said it would solicit proposals from insurance companies seeking to compete for its force-placed business,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “If it ultimately decides to do so, it would be a departure from current practice, in which lenders manage their own business relationship with force-placed insurance providers.”
Fannie is to issue further guidance for mortgage servicers on the issue soon.
Source: “‘Forced’ Home Insurance Policies Face New Scrutiny,” The Wall Street Journal (March 7, 2012)
4 of 19 Banks Fail ‘Stress’ Test–>
Four of the the country’s 19 largest banks do not have enough capital to withstand another economic downturn, if one occurs, according to the Federal Reserve’s latest stress test for banks.
The four banks at risk named in the report are Citigroup, SunTrust, Ally Financial, and MetLife.
The hypothetical stress test, conducted annually by the Federal Reserve but not usually released publicly, analyzes if banks could weather the storm if the economy saw a 21 percent reduction in home prices, 13 percent unemployment, and a 50 percent drop in stock prices. The test aims to see which banks would be able to continue to lend money to individual and businesses even if such catastrophic losses occurred.
For any banks that fail the stress test, the Fed can force them to raise money, such as by selling additional stock or issuing debt.
For the banks that did pass, they are able to raise their dividends and take action in luring more investors to their stocks. This year’s results are “clearly good news — the U.S. banking system can now withstand a quite severe recession without falling over,” Douglas Elliott, a fellow at Brookings Institution, told the Associated Press. Among the banks that passed the stress test are U.S. Bancorp, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo.
Source: “Federal Reserve Annual Stress Test Fails 4 of 19 Big Banks,” The Associated Press (March 12, 2012)
Fed Renews Vow to Keep Rates Low–>
The Federal Reserve sounded more upbeat about the direction of the economy, citing signs of an improving job market and increased household spending, according to a statement released after the Fed’s annual policy-making committee meeting.
The Fed said they expect “moderate economic growth,” but threats still remain, such as a sluggish housing market. The Fed renewed its commitment at the meeting to keep interest rates at record-lows.
The committee “is clearly shifting its stance away from blanket gloom to something more realistic, but they have a long way to go,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, told The New York Times.
The Fed has vowed to continue to keep short-term interest rates near zero until late 2014, possibly longer. The Fed also has been stockpiling Treasury securities, which may even reduce borrowing costs more too. Mortgage rates have been at — or hovering near — all-time record lows for several weeks.
Source: “In Otherwise Dour Report From Fed, the Tiniest Touch of Optimism,” The New York Times (March 13, 2012)
Mobile Tools Become More Important in Home Searches–>
Smartphones and tablets are being increasingly important tools that home buyers are relying on in their home search, according to a new survey from The Real Estate Book and RealEstateBook.com.
The survey shows that 68 percent of mobile users contacted a real estate professional to schedule a showing based on their mobile search. What’s more, 98 percent of those who reported using mobile devices considered the tools valuable in their home search, and 46 percent said they were “essential.”
What are they using their mobile devices for in their home search? The study found that:
- 78 percent viewed photos and videos of homes.
- 66 percent requested additional information about a listing.
- 60 percent used the devices to find listing details, price, property descriptions and amenities, and contact information.
- 57 percent used their mobile device to locate a house listing via a GPS.
- 55 percent searched for homes by city.
- 42 percent downloaded a home buying search app.
- 30 percent shared listing information with friends and family.
“The time is now for agents and brokers to add mobile tools in their marketing mix to increase traffic and reach home shoppers right when they are actively engaged in their search process,” says Scott Dixon, president of NCI’s Real Estate Division.