FHFA Allows Ex-Owners to Buy Back Homes

The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced a new policy that will permit some foreclosed home owners to purchase the homes back that they once had lost at fair market value.

To regain ownership, the ex-owners must be able to pay the full current value of the property, and they still must wait at least three years after their foreclosure to regain ownership, which is required to purchase any home using a Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae–guaranteed loan following a foreclosure.

The FHFA, the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, says the new policy likely will lower the principal on the loans of the former home owners if they elect to buy their former homes back. Prior to the policy, the FHFA had required borrowers who had gone through foreclosure and who wanted to buy back their home to pay the entire debt they owed on the mortgage, even if it was much higher than the home’s current value.

“This is a targeted but important policy change that should help reduce property vacancies and stabilize home values and neighborhoods,” says FHFA Director Melvin L. Watt. “It expands the number of potential buyers of REO properties and is consistent with the enterprises’ practice of requiring fair-market value for those properties.”

The new policy applies only to buyers’ former primary residence. Second homes and investor properties are not eligible.

Source: “Regulator OKs Some Fannie, Freddie Foreclosure Buybacks at Fair Value,” Los Angeles Times (Nov. 25, 2014) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency

Underwater Home Owners Help Lift Home Prices?

Interesting concept to think about. Home owners who owe more on their mortgage than their home is currently worth actually may be helping to drive up home prices in certain markets, suggests CoreLogic in its July MarketPulse report.

These underwater home owners, who can’t afford to take a loss on the sales price of their home, are refusing to sell. As such, inventories are shrinking, giving buyers fewer options to choose from and lifting prices, according to the report.

Housing markets that are seeing some of the highest appreciation are also in states that have some of the highest number of underwater homes, according to CoreLogic.

“Negative equity is keeping many potential sellers out of the market, which keeps a lid on inventory and combined with the reduced flow of REO properties has led to much tighter market conditions for lower priced properties, particularly in the hardest hit markets,” according to CoreLogic in its report.

Source: “CoreLogic: Negative Equity Pushes Prices up in Certain Markets,” HousingWire (7/16/12)

Investors Eye REOs as another ‘Gold Rush’

The El Dorado County, California region strikes Gold again? Investors are buying foreclosure bargains and then turning the properties into money-making rentals, which has some drawing comparisons to another “Gold Rush” of sorts. 

Diane Gozza, the executive vice president of Integrated Mortgage Solutions in Houston, recently wrote in an article for National Mortgage News that investors are eyeing the properties similar to how those risk-takers did back in the 1848 California “Gold Rush,” who also had dreams of striking it rich.

They have plenty to choose from: The government-sponsored enterprises, which includes Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, own more than 200,000 single-family foreclosed homes, and banks own about 600,000 more. To help accelerate the “rush,” the Federal Housing Finance Administration recently launched a pilot foreclosure-to-rental program, offering up investors the chance to bid on 2,500 foreclosure properties owned by Fannie. But some housing experts have argued that such REO-rental programs aren’t needed because investors are already flooding the market to buy up foreclosures and a government intervention isn’t necessary. (Read “NAR: REO Rental Programs Largely Unnecessary” and “Calif. Lawmakers Oppose REO Rental Program“)

“Taking into account the enormous stockpile of REO properties currently held by the GSEs, the auction and bulk investment in REO to rental properties may indeed be the next gold rush,” Gozza writes. “Much in the spirit of the 1848 gold rush, there will be risks and tough lessons learned. But, this private-sector imitative has the potential to be the catalyst for housing market recovery.”

Source: “Tapping into the Next ‘Gold Rush,’”  National Mortgage News (4/10/12)

Where have all the REOs gone?

The presence of real estate owned (REO) properties held by lenders and not yet on the market, known as the shadow inventory, is a constant reminder to those in the real estate business that the real estate market still has a way to go before it normalizes. To build a market and get out of this real estate limbo, REOs must first be resold to owner-occupants or income property investors, not speculators, even though the possible REO deluge will likely have an observable but temporary adverse effect on home prices.

However, with so many banks, speculators, trusts and government-controlled entities holding REOs using different methods to report their foreclosed home holdings, it’s difficult to ferret out the exact number of REOs that remain to be placed on the market. This wildcard creates a quandary for brokers and agents looking forward to the day real estate prices finally stabilize and then begin their annual upward rise — probably limited to the rate of inflation for the next few years into 2015.

What reports do exist indicate that REO inventory is rising as banks are beginning to initiate more foreclosures on those homebuyers who are not eligible for loan modifications or who re-default after modification. So where are the REOs taken in by lenders on foreclosure, and how long will it take them to show up to the party?

The “missing REO” phenomenon is a symptom of a bigger problem, and it’s not the destabilization of prices by putting the REOs on the market immediately after foreclosure. Here’s what the banks aren’t talking about when explaining the slow trickle of REOs onto the market: when they sell an REO, they must then for the first time report the loss (as all REOs currently are supporting an unreported loss) on the lender’s books. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that these massive losses could topple the solvency of any bank that may be on shaky ground — and many of them, even the largest ones, are.

Thus, we probably won’t see a flood of REOs any time soon. Banks are biding their time, holding onto the REO losses and waiting for the economic recovery to see them out of their difficulty. 

By Giang Hoang-Burdette • Apr 29th, 2010,  first tuesday Realty Publications, Inc.