By Mary Kane
The time may be ripe for a shift in strategy as the foreclosure machine grinds on, and new foreclosure notices reach the troubling milestone of 10,000 per day.
A weak economy has added job losses and falling home values to the mix of toxic loans that prompted the crisis two years ago, making an already difficult situation even more severe. Government measures from foreclosure freezes to loan modifications have only served, so far, to stall the inevitable – and to create an ominous backlog of millions of pending foreclosures. Plus, more than one in five homeowners now owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, according to the real estate website Zillow.com. No one can predict with assurance whether those underwater homeowners will keep paying on their loans, or take a walk.
And as bad as things may seem now, there’s still a long period of pain to come: A steady drumbeat of foreclosures, and a stagnant housing market, for the next several years ahead, at a minimum. Some experts see an even more dire picture: Five to 10 years, in California alone, of record high foreclosures. No significant home prices increases nationwide on the horizon in the next year. Or the year after. Or for as long as the next five years. Some 9 million foreclosures are expected by 2012.
While economists search for signs of green shoots, “no one’s really saying anything about this,” noted Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, a Bethesda, Md. publication that covers the lending industry. “There’s really no good news out there, other than we can’t possibly get in much worse shape than we already are.”