Last week we reported that distressed sales accounted for 63.27% of all single family home sales in August, and that a big shake-up was about to ensue as banks declared they were halting foreclosure sales at auction until they had time to investigate whether they’ve followed proper procedures.
Since that time Three major lenders (J.P. Morgan Chase, Allied Financial Inc. (GMAC,) have all stated they were halting foreclosures, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Last week there were in fact several foreclosure sales to the astonishment of the banks who have instructed their local counsel to halt proceedings of final judgments until they study each case.
We at the Ellis Team handle foreclosure sales for one of the large banks and FNMA. FNMA says they have not been affected because they didn’t employ the robo signers the big banks did. The large bank we work with gave us orders on 10 new properties in the past 2 weeks, and we had a closing this past week.
To date title companies are still issuing policies and the banks are still closing sales, although we’ve heard reports of some cancelled sales by agents. Banks may be halting summary judgments, but in many cases they are moving forward with new foreclosures to get the process started, but holding off on the final judgment or auction sale until they know they are on solid legal ground with their paperwork. This is not necessarily stopping them from disposing and selling properties they previously foreclosed on.
So one has to wonder if the bank’s announcement was all a farce for publicity. The answer is probably not. These banks are large and decisions take awhile to matriculate down to all the branches. The implications are huge though.
What’s at stake is the bank’s legal authority to foreclose. Typically the bank makes a loan then services the loan after they sell the loan to an investor, often times as a group package in what is called a security. These loans are typically bundled together with many loans, and many investors may join together and invest in the security package. Other times an investor will buy individual packages of loans.
Because these original loans get bought and sold, there must be a paper trail as to who actually owns the security, and the right to foreclose against the borrower. Defense attorneys have long asked for the lender to produce the note, often called “Produce the note defense.”
Usually the lawyers would sign affidavits that they, or the bank does indeed have the note, and the judge would accept that. The reality is, the note and other paperwork may be missing and perhaps never found. Because of all this, some judges may no longer accept those affidavits, and many of these sales may be in question.
Some speculate this could happen in as many as 30-40% of the cases out there, and the answer is nobody really knows, not even the banks or attorneys right now. This is why banks and states have opened investigations. If this is wide-spread, it could have deep financial implications to the banks and investors, and we wouldnâ€™t be surprised to see damage suits against the banks by those foreclosed upon where the paperwork was insufficient.
This very well could stall the process and tie up the courts for awhile, which could affect the real estate market. It would make sense for the banks to emphasize short-sales now that foreclosures could be delayed, but the banks don’t always make sense.
Inventory could dry up, and transaction volume could decline. Some speculate prices would be driven up fast and furious, but we’re not so sure. We’ve had high sales because prices have been at bargain prices. Unemployment is high, and the economy is hurting. Will prices rise just because supply goes down? In a balanced economy, we’d say yes. In this economy, we may just be prolonging the foreclosures further out and delaying our recovery. We hope this situation gets resolved quickly as nothing good results from a foreclosure moratorium. In the end, the property will still be foreclosed or sold, so no sense delaying it and letting neighborhoods decay and the market falter. Let’s hope this gets fixed and we all get back to business soon.
Watch SW Florida Real Estate Update-Foreclosures-October 2010 on video