In today’s New York Times (10/9/09) the lead story in the Business section is: “In Trial Phase, Mortgage Bills Fall for 500,000. Is that supposed to be good news or news at all? I am not sure. I guess it depends on whether you think the glass is half full or half empty.
The reality is that by now the Obama administration had anticipated (or promised) about 5 million modifications: not 10 percent of that number!
So the real news is that Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s and one of the top real estate prognosticators in the US is fully anticipating another 4 million foreclosures, as reported in the article today. Now I call that News. That’s right four million! Thus, one can expect at least 35% of those foreclosures to occur right here in Florida.
Further Peter Goodman, the NYT’s reporter failed to actually discuss the percentage decrease that occurs s in modifications or whether there was material principal reduction to date. Well I will tell you: the average successful mortgage modification is between 20%-22%. Little if any principal is reduced. Thus we can anticipate that many of these half million modifications will become part of the 4 million in foreclosure. In fact, based on prior studies, modifications without principal reduction lead to foreclosure half the time.
So don’t expect real estate values to start increasing any time soon as long as folks keep losing their homes. Yes, the economy is no longer in free fall and things are better than last fall: Stock market is rising, retail sales have stopped falling and job losses are decreasing. However, until people are employed and can afford their houses payments again and there are meaningful principal reduction or forbearance of underwater equity nothing much will change. The folks who brought us this mess: the politicians and regulators in Washington, the “bright minds” on Wall Street and the banks, will have to first realize that keeping people in their homes is better for them and for the rest of us too. Welcome to the New Normal.