Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The National Association of Realtors sees a flat pattern in home sales which will improve over the summer. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun says the recovery hinges on better access to affordable loans….(which is)… uneven around the country and sometimes within metropolitan areas. In many areas, buyers are looking at homes, but are slow to sign contracts, sometimes waiting for more affordable credit or turned off by unnecessarily restrictive lending practices. Real estate news is “local” with some areas showing sales increases and others not. Yun says, “It is critical to stimulate housing demand by inducing fence sitters back into the market. A home buyer tax credit on any home purchase would accomplish that.” The St. Joe Co., Florida’s biggest landowner, points to stabilization in residential inventory indicating the housing market may have reached bottom. CEO Peter Rummell says rather than “expect that prices are going to be lower tomorrow than today if they just wait,” buyers “must be “retrained” to recognize the importance of making home purchases now.” At Tuesday’s congressional hearing, it appears that mortgage lenders are pursuing unjustified foreclosures against struggling homeowners, piling on questionable fees and misstating amounts due. A law professor who analyzed the system testified that “bankruptcy gives mortgage services new opportunities to engage in abusive practices,” rather than offering families one last chance to save their homes from foreclosure. University of Iowa’s law professor, Katherine Porter’s review of 1700 recent Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases found that lenders regularly disobey laws and rules as they try to collect thousands of dollars more than homeowners feel is owed. Countrywide is cited for abuses, and in one case asked a bankruptcy judge to foreclose on a home though they were current on mortgage payments, and claimed the final mortgage amount was nearly $15,000 more than what the company claimed in bankruptcy court. Proof of payments closed the case. Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, the subcommittee chairman, said that Countrywide “is at the top of the list” of firms responsible for the national mortgage crisis,” and that Bank of America “should think even harder” about whether to complete the purchase of Countrywide.

No comments: