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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Primer On The Foreclosure Crisis

How did this thing get started?
Ever since the housing bubble burst, there have been signs that there are serious problems with foreclosure practices. In some cases, the financial institution claiming it owns the mortgage has not been able to produce the underlying loan documents. In 2007, a federal judge held that Deutsche Bank lacked standing to foreclose in 14 cases because it could not produce the documents proving that it had been assigned the rights in the mortgages when they were securitized.
This decision was followed by similar rulings in other states stopping foreclosure proceedings. Typically the judges would find that the banks that were servicing mortgages pooled into bonds weren't able to prove they owned the mortgages.
Then I skipped down to the very bottom.
What does this mean for the housing market and the economy?
Get ready to hear the phrase "pig through the python" a lot. For example, "We need to get the pig through the python very quickly so that the market can be free of uncertainty."
This is the favorite metaphor of bankers discussing the foreclosure crisis. The idea is that anything that slows down foreclosures will unsteady the housing market. There's a lot of truth to this. Buyers will hesitate to bid on foreclosure sales if they are not confident the foreclosure is legitimate. Other buyers may worry that the lack of foreclosure sales in an area is a false indicator of the health of the local housing market.
Banks concerned about the recovery values of their mortgage portfolios and higher capital requirements, may pull back lending even further than they already have. In short, this could be the beginning of the second leg of the credit crunch.

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