Harvard’s Study, Citi’s Recommendations and Home Loan Modifications

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A new report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies indicates that if there is to be any stabilization in the housing market, it will be at “…extremely low levels that will make the climb up all that more difficult.” Muting any of the recent news in the steadiness of new construction and sales are housing price declines, a record level of foreclosures, rising interest rates, and a shrinking job market. Summing up the study, Nicolas P. Retsinas, Director of the Joint Center said, “Although there are some signs of improvement or at least steadiness in new construction and sales, housing starts stand near 60+ year lows and any life in home sales is coming from distressed foreclosure sales, temporary first-time buyer tax credits, and low interest rates that moved higher in recent weeks.”

Sounding like they were trying to find anything at all possible to spin to the positive, the center was optimistic about the coming of age of the “echo baby boom”, counting on the largest generation in American history to “refuel demand for housing of all types”. Considering that the EBB’s are witnessing the meltdown firsthand, it’s hard to make a convincing argument that the collective will be urgently buying real estate any time soon.

Separately Roger Orf, CEO of Citigroup Property Investors, was calling for governments to force banks to sell their foreclosed properties in a process he dubbed “creative destruction”. Orf favors an immediate clearing of the deck in terms of toxic properties as opposed to the malaise of a gradual unwinding of assets. Orf doesn’t expect fully functioning property lending markets to return before 2011, by when he hoped banks will have completed repair of their capital bases through a wave of real estate sales. The amount of damage to real estate prices as a result of Mr. Orf’s proposal is unknown but when the government forced savings and loans to sell their junk bond portfolios in the early 90’s prices dropped by up to 85% on bonds that were paying interest and backed with solid financials. In that instance, buyers simply stepped aside and let bond prices plummet to levels that carried no risk for the buyers.

What both reports signify is that the need for home loan modifications will continue for the next few years as prices either stabilize or drop and interest rates on mortgages continue to reset and recast. With a relatively small number of reluctant and extremely careful new homebuyers the lenders, servicers, and investors behind today’s mortgages could become much more interested in getting loan modifications completed, especially if a modification is the only way to generate cash flow from a property in a portfolio. While it’s unlikely that Mr. Orf’s proposition ever comes to pass, the foreclosure of properties will become less desirable if more buyers don’t materialize or if the value of REO’s at the banks continues to decrease.

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Feldman Law Center – For more information about Loan Modification / Loan Modifications visit us at feldmanlawcenter.com or call 800-588-0425.

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