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4,000,000 Foreclosures in 2010?

"Explains Rick Sharga, senior vice president of RealtyTrac Inc., “Essentially, the 7 million ‘shadow inventory’ number consists of all the properties currently in foreclosure (about 1.2 million), all the loans that are delinquent (about 5.5 million), and some of the REOs (about 900,000 in our database).” However, he says, “it appears that the analyst is working on the assumption that 100% of everything that's delinquent or in default will ultimately go back to the banks as REOs. That's never happened, and is unlikely to happen this time.”

A more likely scenario, says Sharga, is that many of the loans that are only modestly delinquent will be cured or re-financed. “Of the loans that go into foreclosure, probably 50-60% will either be sold at foreclosure sale or taken back by the banks,” forecasts Sharga.

In addition, Sharga says that 20% of that number is already on the market, and are therefore not “shadow” inventory.

So what’s the real number of shadow inventories? “The only shadow inventory we can really be certain of is that which has already been repossessed by the banks, and isn’t yet listed for sale,” explains Sharga. “We estimate between 400,000 and 500,000 such properties. Everything else is pure speculation.”

The worst case? “If you were to assume that 50% of loans in all stages of delinquency would enter foreclosure and that 50% of those (as well as 50% of the homes currently in foreclosure) would ultimately wind up as REOs, and add these to the current off-market REOs, that would give you potentially 3.7 million homes in the pipeline.

“If 20% of those are currently listed, you come down to 2.96 million properties. Given processing timelines, which range from 3 weeks to 600+ days, and other delays in the system, predicting when these homes become REOs and hit the market is virtually impossible right now.

“And it doesn’t factor in two other important variables: how many loans are yet likely to go into default during this cycle, and how rapidly will buying activity increase? At the end of the day, we’re not looking at 7 million properties that are likely to flood the market all at once; but we will have several million properties go through foreclosure over the next 3 years and ultimately keep market prices from recovering as quickly as everyone would like.”

That could mean a long, slow recovery through 2013, predicts Sharga, rather than another precipitous drop in home prices. The foreclosure pipeline will continue to be slow, but what will hold the finger in the dyke is sheer volume, accounting and strategy.

“Even with the current slowdown, foreclosure activity is running at 6 times what it was four years ago, and REO activity at 10 times,” says Sharga. “Secondly, there are financial reasons to slow down foreclosures and subsequent resales.

“When the “mark to market” accounting rules were relaxed last year, it meant that lenders didn’t need to write down the value of their real estate assets until the assets were re-sold. This allows lenders to repossess properties at full loan value (on their books) and defer the losses for months or even quarters. Finally, now that we’ve reached “critical mass” – a point where releasing all of the REOs onto the market would probably drive prices down – lenders realize that it’s a better strategy to gradually release the properties back onto the market, and may even benefit from a small bounce in prices which will minimize some of their losses.”

Actually, the housing market in many areas such as California, could use more inventory, so lenders would do well to release some foreclosures for resale. In some recovering areas of Southern California, for example, there is less than one month’s inventory for sale on hand." ( End of his statement.)

That last sentence is most relevant to South Florida. This year, and next year, will be very similar to 2009, where the number of foreclosures actually becoming available to be purchased, has been quickly swallowed up by a veritable tsunami of ready, willing, and ready buyers.

Frankly, we agents in South Florida would LOVE for the inventory of available properties to double, or even triple - but unfortunately - for the hungry buyers - that isn't likely to happen.


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