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9/24/2009
GET READY FOR ‘HOUSING MELTDOWN: THE SEQUEL’

I don’t know about you but I sure am glad this recession has “bottomed out” and we’re beginning to see the “green shoots” of recovery - “just around the corner,” or “coming into focus,” or - my favorite - “the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Of course, even the administration admits this doesn’t mean squat if you’ve been laid off and can’t find a job. This will be another one of those “jobless recoveries” which is perhaps the most confusing term ever invented by political economists. How can there be “recovery” if the unemployment rate comes down slower than a three toed sloth making its way to the ground looking for breakfast? (Check it out: The cute little bugger takes a full minute to climb down about 15 feet. Anyway, I LIKE the analogy.)

I guess they mean that if you’re lucky enough to have a little cash, bargain basement stocks and other investment products are great buys and people can start “recovering” all that money they lost during the recession - except if you own a home.

No jobs but the rich get richer. Some recovery.

Speaking of homes, have I got good news for all you Cassandras out there. There are a staggering number of people who are about to lose their homes over the next year or two. Tim Cavanaugh of Hit and Run has enough bad news to keep our gloom and doom punditocracy busy for weeks:

• A record 7.58 percent of U.S. homeowners with mortgages were at least 30 days late on payments in August, says Equifax, up from 7.32 percent in July. Delinquencies are not only rising from month to month, but rising at a faster pace. More than 41 percent of subprime mortgages are delinquent. (That’s quite an increase from 2007, when I took heart from the fact that only 10 percent of subprime mortgages were in default. But, well, at least the glass is still more than half full, right?)

• About 1.2 million loans out there are in limbo: The borrower is in serious default yet the bank has not started the foreclosure process. Another 1.5 million are in early stages of the foreclosure process but the bank hasn’t yet taken possession of the home. Counting these and loans that are highly likely to end up in default, one analyst estimates three million to four million foreclosed homes will come on the market over the next few years. And don’t believe the freshwater economists when they tell you there’s no such thing as a free lunch: Some 217,000 Americans have not made a mortgage payment in one full calendar year, but their lenders have yet to begin the foreclosure process.

• Option ARM recasts (not resets, as Calculated Risk explains) are as much of a time bomb as ever, with nearly all borrowers in this class making only minimum payments and negatively amortizing their mortgages.

• Something called the National Consumer Law Center criticizes state mortgage-mediation schemes as well as the Obama Administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program, which at last count had managed to prevent 235,247 homes from coming onto the market. However, data from the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency indicate that even when these programs succeed, about half of all the renegotiated loans end up back in default soon afterward.

The subprime loan mess is still with us. If anything, it’s worse. Those balloon payments attached to Adjustable Rate Mortgages will continue to wreak havoc on borrowers caught holding on to a house they can’t sell or borrow against. And Obama’s home mortgage program is worse than a dud - it is actually going to contribute to Meltdown II in a big way.

By the way, did it really cost $75 billion to bail out 235,000 consumers? I’ve got no head for math but that seems to be a huge amount of money to help such a relative few - especially since by my very rough calculations it works out to about $32,000 per consumer bailout. (If that’s wrong, I will use as an excuse that I slept through Sister Mary Conception’s class where we learned long division.) Speaking for myself, that would be equivalent to about 3 years worth of my mortgage payments. I’m sure it’s just because I’m an economic dunce and can’t figure it out but my impression was that the program was supposed to help borrowers who were in serious arrears with their loan to get their head back above water.

And what’s with this 50% failure rate? Somebody please convince me that we didn’t just pour $75 billion down a black hole?

Another thing apparent from those numbers is that some banks are in a really, really precarious position. Many of them may already have too many repossessed properties that have been foreclosed - else why the long delay in starting foreclosure proceedings? Unless we believe that bankers have developed a conscience and a soul to go along with it (just kidding Larry), this could indicate that for some banks at least, the bad paper is becoming very worrisome and rather than take another almost worthless property, they are allowing homeowners to slide in their mortgage payments.

Community focused banks may indeed be bending over backward with their customers, taking partial payments from borrowers until they get back on their feet. But I find it incredible that more than 200,000 people haven’t paid a dime on their mortgage in a year and still have a home. Eventually, I will bet you dollars to donuts that we, the taxpayer, end up bailing them out anyway.

Cavanaugh explains why Obama’s consumer mortgage program had it all wrong to begin with:

[T]he renegotiation has made things worse for everybody. The lender ends up with lower payments in the short term and then has to foreclose on a less-valuable property at some point in the future. The borrower gets no financial upside and (though he or she gets the use of a subsidized domicile for some period of time) is encouraged to stay in a losing situation when immediate foreclosure would have been a more merciful option. Prospective buyers get locked out as dumb lenders, deadbeat borrowers and the government all collude to keep the price of the house artificially inflated. And taxpayers have to spend $75 billion (the budget of HUD’s Making Home Affordable program) for the privilege of making it all happen. The best option for all concerned would be to get the deadbeat out of the house as quickly as possible, but nobody is doing that.

What precipitated the first crisis was an avalanche of foreclosures that caused the bottom to fall out of the new and resale home market. This made the mortgage backed securities and other instruments like derivatives held by the big banks and firms like AIG lose an enormous amount of value. Could history be repeating itself.

Cavanaugh concludes:

Put it all together, and throw in mainstream media outlets that as recently as June were calling for mortgage haircuts specifically to allow people to keep borrowing against their houses, and you’ve got the mother of all perfect storms mixed with the crack cocaine of third rails on steroids. The foreclosure wave may seem all tired and 2008, but it’s hotter than ever.

I’m no economist but it seems to me a possibility that another hair on fire, full blown crisis could come again. Home values are so depressed today that it would be a stretch to think their value could plummet much farther. But that many foreclosures might cause a lot of trouble for smaller banks, regional banks, and perhaps even Fannie Mae (FHA is already in trouble and may need a taxpayer bailout).

But then there is the 800 lb gorilla in the room; the commercial real estate market. The Wall Street Journal had an article back in December that predicted from 10-26% of all retail businesses going bankrupt. That’s an awful lot of empty store fronts, and malls. And the market is incredibly depressed for new office and industrial properties (see this video to get an idea of the problem).

I guess the point I’m trying to make is we are not out of the woods - not by a long shot.

UPDATE: LIKE I SAID - NO HEAD FOR MATH

John in the comments very gently points out that my math on how much each of the 235,000 consumers taking part in Obama’s home mortgage bailout received from the $75 billion program was not $32,000. I was only off by a factor of 10.

The correct number is $320,000.

Now will someone explain that to me? I know there’s a rational explanation - maybe the program is still ongoing and they haven’t given out that much money. Couldn’t find that info at the HUD website so if anyone has a clue, let me in on it.

By: Rick Moran at 10:23 am
19 Responses to “GET READY FOR ‘HOUSING MELTDOWN: THE SEQUEL’”
  1. 1
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    10:36 am 

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is we are not out of the woods - not by a long shot.

    Judging by all the rapidly emptying strip mall stores out in suburbia, you’re absolutely right.

  2. 2
    John Said:
    11:08 am 

    “By the way, did it really cost $75 billion to bail out 235,000 consumers? I’ve got no head for math but that seems to be a huge amount of money to help such a relative few - especially since by my very rough calculations it works out to about $32,000 per consumer bailout.”

    I get almost $320,000 per customer

  3. 3
    rayc Said:
    11:13 am 

    “By the way, did it really cost $75 billion to bail out 235,000 consumers?I ’ve got no head for math but that seems to be a huge amount of money to help such a relative few - especially since by my very rough calculations it works out to about $32,000 per consumer bailout.”

    Rick - I’m coming up with 10x the per consumer number you had or $320,000/bailee. looks like the fed is coverin’ the whole nut and then some…, nice!

  4. 4
    John G. Said:
    11:37 am 

    I get 319,149K per consumer as well. I guess the nuns were busy paddling someone that day eh. Where the hell is the Republican conservative outrage at this. I could have just about paid off my mortgage with that money. You know we didn’t rebel the first time because King George only imposed a tax on tea, no no no. The colonists rebeled because the tax was used to fund post fact his war with France, and imposed without representation of the American colonies. SOUND FAMILIAR, can you say just about every piece of legislation since November of last year that has to do with spending & regulation. Good-bye grand experiment of democracy.

  5. 5
    Gayle Miller Said:
    11:54 am 

    Hell’s bells Rick - they could have PAID OFF those houses for the amount of moola they spent! The problem is the usual one - the government is piss poor at doing anything that requires a head for economics or business. They just suck at it. This is why I don’t trust them on health care reform (that and the fact that I’m 67 years old and don’t care to compliantly die just to save the guvmint money!)

    I work in D.C. and I have to tell you things are just screwed up beyond belief around here. Never ever should anyone let Dems attempt to run anything!

  6. 6
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    1:24 pm 

    I work in D.C. and I have to tell you things are just screwed up beyond belief around here. Never ever should anyone let Dems attempt to run anything!

    It might have slipped by you, but the Dems had about an eight year hiatus from running much of anything recently. Did you mean Republicans?

  7. 7
    Bill Arnold Said:
    1:44 pm 

    The latest # is 360000 through August 2009. The $235000 was from the July 2009 report. And I see no reason to believe that the $75 billion has been spent, though I haven’t found an actual figure for expenditures to date. Still perhaps bloated, agreed, depending on how much has actually been spent so far. But *always* double check Hit & Run figures.

    http://www.financialstability.gov/docs/MHA-Public_090909.pdf

    Yeah - program is apparently ongoing. Still, it would be interesting to see how much they’ve spent to bail out 360,000. Might give us a clue about overhead and such.

    ed.

  8. 8
    P. Aaron Said:
    2:42 pm 

    P.S. Hello Rick! Your contact form doesn’t seem to want to boot a comment box or a place to enter text to type you a message.

  9. 9
    c3 Said:
    6:01 pm 

    My wife is a realtor in Phx and the market has picked up. Very many short sales by owners. The banks are slowly digesting the short sales and the foreclosures. Investors are very much back in the game buying these low cost homes , upgrading them and then selling, particularly for the low end housing. Many first time buyers coming into the market because of the low prices and the government programs for first time buyers. The problems that remain: 1) will you own the home long-term and if no will the house appreciate at all. (Though for many the prices as so low that the monthly mortgage payments are about the same as a rental) 2) As jobs sputter how many folks who didn’t have subprime mortgages but who are underwater will default? 3)high end market not so good 4) Everyone keeps waiting for the commercial real estate collapse but hasn’t happened yet? 5) many bank closures.

    But I must say, to counteract Mr. Moore, the market is working, not without pain but it is working

    PS This may be one case where the generational shift in dollars worked for the millenials. I believe a lot of the foreclosures and short sales were with young families up to empty-nesters. The twenty-something’s were renting and now they’re taking advantage of the the low cost homes on the market. Maybe that will help ease some of the pain as these twenty somethings become thirty-something’s and begin to pay for all that this administration has “bought”

  10. 10
    brooks Said:
    8:40 pm 

    this employed Gen-Xer agrees one-hundred percent (and extra points for the sloth analogy).

  11. 11
    Doug King Said:
    9:46 pm 

    So even rougher waters are ahead! I have many unemployed friends here in Washington state and hoped we had bottomed out.

    There’s much I don’t understand about the economy. But I believe a large part of the mortgage meltdown was the result of noble but ill-fated intentions by Congress to extend credit to those who otherwise didn’t qualify.

    As Henry Hazlitt said in 1946, “When people risk their own funds they are usually careful in their investigations to determine the adequacy of the assets pledged and the business acumen and honesty of the borrower.
    …[But]government lenders will take risks with other people’s money (the taxpayers’) that private lenders will not take with their own money” (You can read more at http://jim.com/econ/chap06p1.html)

    Its wrong to lay this blame at the feet of just one party. I just hope Obama’s policies don’t make it worse.

  12. 12
    lionheart Said:
    5:56 am 

    Chuck said

    It might have slipped by you, but the Dems had about an eight year hiatus from running much of anything recently. Did you mean Republicans?

    They’re all douchebags, and the entire Congress should be turned over.

  13. 13
    Housing Bubble, Take 2 | Axis of Right Pinged With:
    6:36 am 

    [...] causes, it appears the housing market is not done causing trouble.  Some analysts are predicting a second, worse housing crash in the next year or two.  Over 7% of current mortgages are late (a record in August), and analysts predict 3-4 million [...]

  14. 14
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    8:10 am 

    lionheart said:

    They’re all douchebags, and the entire Congress should be turned over.

    Which begs the age old questions:

    1. Are they douchebags before they get into office?
    2. If not, what about political office promotes douchebaggery?
    3. Is douchebaggery contagious?
    4. How much weed does Rick smoke on a daily basis, just to get by?

    Tough questions indeed.

    The gratuitous slap at me is totally uncalled for and begs the question; what kind of idiot visits the blog of a stoner?

    If you are not going to respond intelligently, go away. I find most of your responses boring and puerile. You have nothing original to offer - just bad snark. Good snark I can put up with, but stupid snark isn’t worth it.

    If you want to comment, leave out the personal insults. That is my prerogative alone. If you don’t want to play by the rules, don’t comment. And if you comment anyway, I will ban you.

    ed.

  15. 15
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    9:00 am 

    It was an offhanded compliment based on your FIVE YEARS BLOGGING essay, and the amount of whatnot you deal with due to your opinionated blogging.

    Hellofa reaction though.

    Hellofa compliment. And your explanation is not believable in the slightest - especially given the comment you left on that same essay about my 5 years blogging.

    Go try and snow someone else. I ain’t buying.

    ed.

  16. 16
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    9:26 am 

    Chin up Rick, we’ll get through this together. All you have to do is accept that you have a good blog, you are a good writer, and that your ideas foster many discussions far and away from the page on which they written.

    Suggesting that you use chemicals to help ignore the Chuck Tucson’s of the world was just me projecting. Because, if I had to deal with me, I’d sure as hell need a hit from time to time.

  17. 17
    Neil Ferguson Said:
    2:52 pm 

    From Wikipedia: “As much as two-thirds of a well-fed sloth’s body-weight consists of the contents of its stomach…”

  18. 18
    fred edwards Said:
    9:26 am 

    Still seems to me that the commercial market is the BIG disaster about to dump us down the hole. All stemming from the gummint deciding to force subprime loans. Not to worry. The same clowns that caused all this are the very ones “fixing’ it!

  19. 19
    Chris Pedersen Said:
    11:07 am 

    Rick,

    I’m very pleased to have found your website link from AT. For some reason or another I can’t log on to AT to post. I will have to create another e-mail address and password and try again. I’ll figure it out.

    I just wanted to praise AT for the exceptional and gifted writers on staff. You guys are great. All of you! I’m new to all this blogging,[I'm and old guy compared to you and the others]and not that Tec or writer savay, so I will do my best in posting issuses on Federal Labor Law vs the Unions[in particular the Teamsters concerning ["the donination and control by the MOB"].

    As a former member[on withdrawal card]of one of the most corrupt Mobbed-Up Local Unions in CHICAGO [ the principle officer "wacked" his kid in the basement] along with the many entities of the Union structure to the top. I spent many years in the Cook County law library of the Daley center.

    So much so I missed many years of the children growing up in my thirst for Justice to be made whole[ for them not myself] Haven’t found it yet, but that’s besides the point here and now. I got an education out of it. Somthing I want to offer to the participants here to focus on how the union members get sold out, and why. The many schemes and who controls the processes other than the MOB.

    I know first hand about corruption in Chicago, including City Hall scandals [The One's training ground]where I believe I can offer substance and facts into this enviroment where the MSM including Fox News fails miserably at exposing this corruption with a bright light.That is why history repeats its self, but in Chicago it never ends.

    I lived in the 11th Ward of the Daley “Irish Don” Dynasty for most of my life. This Country and the people in it haven’t got a clue, Nada, O, including all those members in the Unions backing the complete unfettered idiot in the oval office, poured from the same mold of corruption.
    What I have to say, I would say it to his face in no uncertain terms, the secret service, Axlerod and Raul Emmanual be damned!

    The corrupt history gives anyone with a half of brain or less to see clearly if they would just open their eyes and reason with rational thoughts and expressions. As one of the old ‘wiseguys’ in the neighborhood taught me “Not everything is the way it seems”. This is were they, the union members, lack in their wisdom, because of their dues paid non-stop brainwashing. White is white, and black is black is their thinking, but little do they know.

    This is were the members of the unions backing O are fools. To believe [like they all do] that they are represented is an illusion. The unions OWN their asses, lock, stock and barrel, because the unions intentionally fail and refuse to educate them in any manner concerning their labor contractual rights for thr most part.

    Particularly if the union sells them out through a backroom handshake deal in their grievance process. These members are so blind, the union thugs could steal the F’n chair with them in it and they still wouldn’t get it. Many of these members are just plain F’n stupid and I feel sorry for them in part because they are blinded their ignorance and baffled by the bullsqueeze of the union thugs. The member[s] only figure it out[maybe] after their OX is the one who got goured.

    I’m stuck in labor pergatory. I hate the unions now, for I know I was sold out, however my mother had breast cancer, my father was a long standing Member with his combined time. The local union’s “Health & Welfare Plan” paid almost a million dollars in her treatment. Now ask yourselves, would walmart do that?

    She fought the battle for years but lost the war after my father took his retirement and moved to Southwest Missouri where I LIVE NOW. Conservatism here is the norm and the only political answer. It was like getting an enema, flushing away all the poisonous thinking, the mindset one develops from the enviroment they live in.
    I also contribute this cleansing to Mr. Neal Boortz [talk radio] and the Fair Tax publications of both Boortz and Congressman John Linder[R Georgia]. This is what the republican concervative movement should be hammering on, on a daily bases non-stop including every writer at AT. fairtax.org.

    Believe me, moving here was the best thing that happened to my family and I, to run like hell, fleeing the never ending Daley machine of Mobbed-Up corruption,taxes, fraud, waste and abuse for the elite on the backs of the taxpayers Obama claimed/claims he represented. SHHHHIIIIIIT! I knew wiseguys I would trust more than him any day of the week.

    Obam is the biggest phony, fraud and empty suit I’ve ever seen crawl out of Daley’s shorts with a wet chin to boot.
    At this point in my life after what happen, I could care less what he thinks or what he would say after reading the above comment. I don’t give a flying F on friday if it were for free. He’s a punk!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The factual story of what happened [I have all the records to back it up] to me and others involved is much to long to post.

    I’m looking for a “writer” to assit me in writing a book. I would make it worth their time from the sales. Believe me, even some members of Congress would be forced to take notice. This may give others an opportunity to wise up and the abillity to protect themselves and their families from what happen to me and the others and change federal labor laws to 21st century litigation.

    It has taken the Feds over 40 years to clean the MOB out of the teamsters union. Think Robert Kennedy and the “Hoffa Wars” and how long its been. Before YOU WERE BORN young man, and they still are not through.

    I think Joe The Plummer is great, I can relate to this man completely, however with a thicker skin than most people who are afraid of the MSM. The MSM sits down when they have to WEE-WEE, getting “a thrill down their leg”. As George Bush exclaimed “Bring It On”! You worthless whimps and pimps of the prostituted media, make my day!

    Thinking like the disgusting MOB and their rank demented mentality I can think of a list of names of many who should get “wacked”, but being a Christian I pray for forgivness and forgive those who trespassed against me, but I will “Never Forget”. They will all meet their maker one day recieve what is comming to them.
    JUSTICE will prevail in the end.

    Well this is much too long. “I’ll Be Back”
    Thanks for your time and talent Sir, you guys/gals are great, keep up the fine work.

    Chris Pedersen Southwest Missouri

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