It’s Not Even a Bubble: Foreclosures on the Rise

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Editor’s Comment: Realtors and Banks want you to think that you need to buy now before the  market takes off and prices spiral upward. I say don’t believe a word of it.

If you are buying to live in a house, you should know that the actual and shadow inventory of foreclosures will keep intense downward pressure on housing prices for many years to come. Some estimates, including mine, are that the housing market might take more than 10 years to recover and that it could be as much as 20 years. This is why so many people are renting rather than buying. Rental values are going up because there is actual demand for renting.

If you are buying for investment, see the above paragraph. You might have a viable investment if you are willing to stay in for the long pull and you are willing to take on the duties and obligations of a landlord.

If you are selling and you are waiting for the market to bottom out, or maybe you see a spike and you think you’ll wait just a little bit longer to get a higher price, forget it. Sellers, as realtors will even tell you, are mostly unrealistic about the sales price of their property. This is because they bought or once saw the price of their property at twice the price as the offers now. The reason is simple — prices went up but values stayed the same or even declined. The difference between prices and values has never been as big a deal as it is now.

Prices can be forced up by actual demand but never as much as we saw from the late 90’s to the peak at 2006. The prices went up because the payments went down or appeared to go down.

Free money was everywhere and nobody was reading the fine print or even questioning why Banks would offer such deals as teaser rates and other nonsensical things to entice people into signing up for mortgages, whose payment would eventually rise above their household income or where the payment was the equivalent of doubling the interest rate because they were going to be sitting with a home that declined to its real value.

The truth is that even if a recovery eventually occurs, it will be 20+ years before we see those prices again. And that will only result from inflation which eventually will pick up steam.

And by all means remember what I have been writing about these last few weeks. The title they are offering you, with a deed signed by a bank, or even a satisfaction of mortgage signed by a bank may not be worth the paper it is written on and the title policy normally excludes that sort of risk from what they  are covering in title insurance. So if you don’t pose the hard questions and negotiate a real title policy that covers all the known risks, you could be the angry owner of a white elephant that cannot be sold later nor refinanced.

From CNBC:

Home prices rose, just barely, in the second quarter of this year annually for the first time since 2007, according to online real estate firm Zillow. That prompted the popular site to call a “bottom” to home prices nationally. The increase was a mere 0.2 percent, but in today’s touch and go housing recovery, that was enough.

Nearly one third of the 167 markets Zillow tracks in this survey saw annual price gains from a year ago.

“After four months with rising home values and increasingly positive forecast data, it seems clear that the country has hit a bottom in home values,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “The housing recovery is holding together despite lower-than-expected job growth, indicating that it has some organic strength of its own.”

Zillow’s report, which compares prices of homes sold in the same neighborhood, also showed a stronger 2.1 percent gain quarter to quarter, which is the biggest uptick since 2005. The biggest price gains, however, are in the markets that saw the biggest price drops during the latest housing crash. Phoenix, for example, saw a 12 percent annual price gain on the Zillow index.

That has other analysts claiming that the overall surge in national prices is due to price bubbles in certain markets.

“Strong demand, particularly in areas of California, Arizona and Nevada, are pushing up home prices very quickly in the short-term. And because many of the home purchases in these areas are cash transactions, there appears to be less braking of prices by our current appraisal system than seen in other parts of the country,” noted Thomas Popik, research director for Campbell Surveys and chief analyst for HousingPulse. “The trend raises the distinct possibility of housing price bubbles emerging in some of these hot housing markets.”

The supply of foreclosed properties for sale has been dropping steadily, as lenders try to modify more loans or actively pursue foreclosure alternatives, like short sales (where the home is sold for less than the value of the mortgage). Investors, eager to take advantage of the hot rental market, are having to spread out to more markets in order to find the best deals.

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“We were heavily into Phoenix early in the cycle. Those markets are heating up,” said James Breitenstein, CEO of investment firm Landsmith in an interview on CNBC Monday. “We see a shift more to the east, states like North Carolina, Michigan, Florida.”

While home prices on the Zillow index are improving most in formerly distressed markets, like Miami, Orlando and much of California, they are still dropping in other non-distressed markets, like St. Louis (down 4 percent annually) Chicago (down 5.8 percent annually) and Philadelphia (down 3.5 percent annually).

“Those people looking at current results and calling a bottom are being dangerously short-sighted,” said Michael Feder, CEO of Radar Logic, a real estate data and analytics company. “Not only are the immediate signs inconclusive, but the broad dynamics are still quite scary. We think housing is still a short.”

Radar Logic sees price increases as well, but blames that on mild winter weather that temporarily boosted demand. This means there will be payback, or weakness in prices during the latter half of this year. And even without the weather hypothesis, they see further trouble ahead:

“On the supply side, higher prices will entice financial institutions to sell more of their inventories of foreclosed homes and allow households that were previously unable to sell due to negative equity to put their homes on the market. As a result, the supply of homes for sale will increase, placing downward pressure on prices. On the demand side, rising prices could reduce investment buying,” according to the Radar Logic report.

Investors are driving much of the housing market today, anywhere from one third to one quarter of home sales. That makes these supposedly national price gains more precarious than ever, because they are based on a finite supply of distressed homes and that supply is dependent on the nation’s big banks. First time home buyers, who should be 40 percent of the market, are barely making up one third, and millions of potential move-up buyers are trapped in their homes due to negative and near negative equity.

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Homeowner Associations On the Attack, As Predicted Here

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Editor’s Comment:  Thousands of homeowner associations are filing foreclosure actions on banks owning property that are not paying the monthly assessments or special assessments. We’ve written about this before and encouraged the associations to do so.

The irony is very interesting here. The Banks, having never funded a loan and never purchased a loan, managed to foreclose a loan they never had and get title, possession and even eviction if the rightful homeowner failed to leave as ordered by the bogus pretender lender. Now they must pay the taxes, insurance, and maintain the place as it is written in the Declaration of Condominium, or Community restrictions. AND they must pay monthly “Dues” or assessments as well as special assessments.

So that free house the bank got by submitting a credit bid even though they were never the creditor and never had the right to call themselves a creditor, and even though the debt was either unsecured or paid off, now they re suddenly required to pay the piper.

After all, they say they are the homeowner now. So the banks, knowing this would happen have transferred title into “bankruptcy remote vehicles” which are in fact vehicles for avoiding creditors. A transfer in fraud of creditors is intended to be prosecuted by the Association or any other person effected and the association this time is neither intimidated nor unwilling to press their claim. These are the same banks that decimated their neighborhood. The battle is on.

I wonder how this disclosed to Canadian and other investors who think they are getting clear title? This is only one of several reasons why they are getting clouded title — the pendency of assessments.

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Pensions to Be Slashed By Fake Losses on Mortgage Bonds

 

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Editor’s Comment:  

Many of the most conservative, pro-business people who think they escaped the travesty of the mortgage scam and meltdown are in for a big surprise starting this year. Pension funds were the investors. And they lost big. In some cases the fund managers were in bed with the investment bankers who were peddling this crap.

If you read the Wall Street Journal they explain how the already underfunded pension funds (due to accounting tricks that were illegal and then made legal) are now unable to escape the reality admitting the losses being pitched over the fence at them by investment bankers who are rolling in money from bailouts, insurance (that should have paid the pension fund), credit default swaps (that should have paid the pension fund).

Deep in the articles is a description of exactly what is happening in simple math terms. That description applies equally to the intentionally manipulated underwriting standards to assure the loans would fail. If you or I did this, we would be in jail. Instead Jamie Dimon sits on the Board of the New York Fed. what a country. Millions of people are thrown out of their homes, cities and counties go bankrupt, most from mythical losses they don’t understand.

It all comes from what are called yield spreads, premiums and losses from changes in yield. Under normal protocol investors protect themselves by using various hedge products.

But the investment bankers didn’t make the investors the beneficiary of those hedges, they made themselves the beneficiaries instead. Since they were the agents of the investors they should and still can be forced to apply those proceeds, and pay them to the pension funds, which in turn will reduce the amount due under each loan that was funded.

Sources tell me that not only are the pension funds being forced to accept losses on loans they never owned until it was time to foreclose, but that some of the “bets” that went bad are being tacked on as additional fees or losses.

The pension funds are therefore suffering from two huge write-downs — one from the change in accounting rules that allowed them to kick the can down the road (passed 30+ Years ago), and the other from losses that don’t actually exist but were convenient for the banks to assert when they asked for bailouts.

Pension funds become underfunded automatically when the interest and dividends they get paid shrink. In order to bring up income they need to invest more. Neither the companies nor the pensioners are doing that so there is a shortfall. So when interest rates go down, someone must invest more money to earn the interest required to pay to the pensioners. Nobody is making that investment.

Example: If interest rates were 6% when the pension funds made commitments to retiring employees and the amount of money promised those retiring employees just happened to be $60,000, the pension fund would need $1 million invested (over simplifying by taking out amortization of principal). If interest rates fall to 3%, then the $1 million fund is only getting $30,000 per year. In order to raise it back up to $60,000 per year, the fund needs $2 million invested at 3% to stay fully funded. Without additional contribution, there is a $1 million shortfall.

Right now interest rates, manipulated as they are have never been lower which means that pension funds are getting less income than they were getting before, and since nobody is putting in more money to cover the difference the pension fund is underfunded.

When pension funds must declare the losses on mortgage bonds they will be far more underfunded than currently appears and the amount received by each pensioner will be slashed. Say thank you to Wall Street for that.

Curious coincidence: This same analysis applies to the tier 2 yield spread premium grabbed by the investment bank under false pretenses from investors. For purposes of this article you can spell investor as “Pension Fund.”

When the fund manager for the pension fund gave the investment banker $1 million in our example above, he was expecting a 6% return on investment.

But in the most unbridled breach of trust ever recorded in Wall Street history, the investment banker instead invested half the money at twice the rate.

So they only funded $500,000 in “mortgage” loans carrying a nominal interest rate of 12%, even though they had received $1 million and they pocketed the other $500,000 as “trading profits.”Anyone with any investment knowledge understands that this was (1) an immediate loss of $500,000 to the investor (Pension Fund) and (2) a probable loss of the other $500,000 or most of it after the obvious market crash this would cause.

Of course the people accepting those 12% loans were extremely poor credit risks and were literally guaranteed to default.

So Wall Street took the other half of the money they stole from the pension fund, unknown to the pension fund manager, and bet against the mortgages that were underwritten.

Instead of making the pension fund the beneficiary of that protection the investment banker made himself the beneficiary of the insurance, hedge or credit default swap.

And instead of informing the pension fund manager of the loss in a report in which the fund manager could detect what was really happening, the banks announced that the BANKS had suffered trillions of dollars in losses that never happened except in the mythical world of “cash equivalent” derivatives.

So if you are looking for the rest of your pension income you were promised, you can find it on Wall Street.

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America Is Not Broke

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“For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we’d have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite. Wall Street, the banks and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic — and, until this past month, the rest of us have felt completely helpless, unable to find a way to do anything about it.” — Michael Moore

“400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer “bailout” of 2008, now have more loot, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can’t bring yourself to call that a financial coup d’état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.” — Michael Moore

EDITORIAL ANALYSIS: Michael Moore GETS IT! He understands that what happened was political, not economic. It was theft and a grab for power that worked. And he understands that “we the people” in the preamble of our great  Constitution of the United States of America together with the 9th Amendment to that great instrument of human rights, that we THE PEOPLE have the right to take back both the power and the money.

AND that is because, as Thomas Jefferson said, that when in the course of human events” it becomes necessary for the people to act to break the bonds of governance and reinstate the rule of law, we have the right to do it. And in this great country we have every right and obligation to do it without changing our form of government or even resorting to violent revolution. We need only the will to take the streets because we mean it and to start voting and acting like we are in charge, to give up fear as our prime motivator and replace it with hope.

Just because Wall Street has TAKEN the money and the power doesn’t mean we are required to let them keep it. The framers of our government meant for us to correct imbalances of power, high crimes, misdemeanors and other criminal acts and to enable people to get fresh starts and to deprive freedom to those who commit sins against our humanity and our society, committing them to imprisonment, fine and forfeiture —- just like any little guy.

Michael Moore
Oscar and Emmy-winning director

 

America Is Not Broke

Speech delivered at Wisconsin Capitol in Madison, March 5, 2011
America is not broke.

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

Today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.

Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer “bailout” of 2008, now have more loot, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can’t bring yourself to call that a financial coup d’état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.

And I can see why. For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we’d have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite. Wall Street, the banks and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic — and, until this past month, the rest of us have felt completely helpless, unable to find a way to do anything about it.

I have nothing more than a high school degree. But back when I was in school, every student had to take one semester of economics in order to graduate. And here’s what I learned: Money doesn’t grow on trees. It grows when we make things. It grows when we have good jobs with good wages that we use to buy the things we need and thus create more jobs. It grows when we provide an outstanding educational system that then grows a new generation of inventers, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and thinkers who come up with the next great idea for the planet. And that new idea creates new jobs and that creates revenue for the state. But if those who have the most money don’t pay their fair share of taxes, the state can’t function. The schools can’t produce the best and the brightest who will go on to create those jobs. If the wealthy get to keep most of their money, we have seen what they will do with it: recklessly gamble it on crazy Wall Street schemes and crash our economy. The crash they created cost us millions of jobs.  That too caused a reduction in revenue. And the population ended up suffering because they reduced their taxes, reduced our jobs and took wealth out of the system, removing it from circulation.

The nation is not broke, my friends. Wisconsin is not broke. It’s part of the Big Lie. It’s one of the three biggest lies of the decade: America/Wisconsin is broke, Iraq has WMD, the Packers can’t win the Super Bowl without Brett Favre.

The truth is, there’s lots of money to go around. LOTS. It’s just that those in charge have diverted that wealth into a deep well that sits on their well-guarded estates. They know they have committed crimes to make this happen and they know that someday you may want to see some of that money that used to be yours. So they have bought and paid for hundreds of politicians across the country to do their bidding for them. But just in case that doesn’t work, they’ve got their gated communities, and the luxury jet is always fully fueled, the engines running, waiting for that day they hope never comes. To help prevent that day when the people demand their country back, the wealthy have done two very smart things:

1. They control the message. By owning most of the media they have expertly convinced many Americans of few means to buy their version of the American Dream and to vote for their politicians. Their version of the Dream says that you, too, might be rich some day ˆ this is America, where anything can happen if you just apply yourself! They have conveniently provided you with believable examples to show you how a poor boy can become a rich man, how the child of a single mother in Hawaii can become president, how a guy with a high school education can become a successful filmmaker. They will play these stories for you over and over again all day long so that the last thing you will want to do is upset the apple cart — because you — yes, you, too! — might be rich/president/an Oscar-winner some day! The message is clear: keep your head down, your nose to the grindstone, don’t rock the boat and be sure to vote for the party that protects the rich man that you might be some day.

2. They have created a poison pill that they know you will never want to take. It is their version of mutually assured destruction. And when they threatened to release this weapon of mass economic annihilation in September of 2008, we blinked. As the economy and the stock market went into a tailspin, and the banks were caught conducting a worldwide Ponzi scheme, Wall Street issued this threat: Either hand over trillions of dollars from the American taxpayers or we will crash this economy straight into the ground. Fork it over or it’s Goodbye savings accounts. Goodbye pensions. Goodbye United States Treasury. Goodbye jobs and homes and future. It was friggin’ awesome and it scared the shit out of everyone. “Here! Take our money! We don’t care. We’ll even print more for you! Just take it! But, please, leave our lives alone, PLEASE!”

The executives in the board rooms and hedge funds could not contain their laughter, their glee, and within three months they were writing each other huge bonus checks and marveling at how perfectly they had played a nation full of suckers. Millions lost their jobs anyway, and millions lost their homes. But there was no revolt (see #1).

Until now. On Wisconsin! Never has a Michigander been more happy to share a big, great lake with you! You have aroused the sleeping giant know as the working people of the United States of America. Right now the earth is shaking and the ground is shifting under the feet of those who are in charge. Your message has inspired people in all 50 states and that message is: WE HAVE HAD IT! We reject anyone tells us America is broke and broken. It’s just the opposite! We are rich with talent and ideas and hard work and, yes, love. Love and compassion toward those who have, through no fault of their own, ended up as the least among us. But they still crave what we all crave: Our country back! Our democracy back! Our good name back! The United States of America. NOT the Corporate States of America. The United States of America!

So how do we get this? Well, we do it with a little bit of Egypt here, a little bit of Madison there. And let us pause for a moment and remember that it was a poor man with a fruit stand in Tunisia who gave his life so that the world might focus its attention on how a government run by billionaires for billionaires is an affront to freedom and morality and humanity.

Thank you, Wisconsin. You have made people realize this was our last best chance to grab the final thread of what was left of who we are as Americans. For three weeks you have stood in the cold, slept on the floor, skipped out of town to Illinois — whatever it took, you have done it, and one thing is for certain: Madison is only the beginning. The smug rich have overplayed their hand. They couldn’t have just been content with the money they raided from the treasury. They couldn’t be satiated by simply removing millions of jobs and shipping them overseas to exploit the poor elsewhere. No, they had to have more ˆ something more than all the riches in the world. They had to have our soul. They had to strip us of our dignity. They had to shut us up and shut us down so that we could not even sit at a table with them and bargain about simple things like classroom size or bulletproof vests for everyone on the police force or letting a pilot just get a few extra hours sleep so he or she can do their job — their $19,000 a year job. That’s how much some rookie pilots on commuter airlines make, maybe even the rookie pilots flying people here to Madison. But he’s stopped trying to get better pay. All he asks is that he doesn’t have to sleep in his car between shifts at O’Hare airport. That’s how despicably low we have sunk. The wealthy couldn’t be content with just paying this man $19,000 a year. They wanted to take away his sleep. They wanted to demean and dehumanize him. After all, he’s just another slob.

And that, my friends, is Corporate America’s fatal mistake. But trying to destroy us they have given birth to a movement — a movement that is becoming a massive, nonviolent revolt across the country. We all knew there had to be a breaking point some day, and that point is upon us. Many people in the media don’t understand this. They say they were caught off guard about Egypt, never saw it coming. Now they act surprised and flummoxed about why so many hundreds of thousands have come to Madison over the last three weeks during brutal winter weather. “Why are they all standing out there in the cold? I mean there was that election in November and that was supposed to be that!

“There’s something happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you…?”

America ain’t broke! The only thing that’s broke is the moral compass of the rulers. And we aim to fix that compass and steer the ship ourselves from now on. Never forget, as long as that Constitution of ours still stands, it’s one person, one vote, and it’s the thing the rich hate most about America — because even though they seem to hold all the money and all the cards, they begrudgingly know this one unshakeable basic fact: There are more of us than there are of them!

Madison, do not retreat.  We are with you. We will win together.

Follow Michael Moore on Twitter: MMFlint

 

MATT TAIBBI: CONNECT THE DOTS IN WISCONSIN

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Americans can politicize anything including as it turns out, restricting the funding of feeding of an underweight newborn by the same people who are against abortion. So it should come as no surprise that we are so easily manipulated and distracted by the people who are acting against our interests or as Matt likes to say “screwing us.” Last night on REALTIME TAIBBI said the obvious — we are not connecting the dots — The public service pension funds were fully funded with no money required from taxpayers until Wall Street sold toxic mortgage backed securities to them that were worthless.

Somehow the uprising in Wisconsin has turned into a referendum on unions and even whether public workers should be allowed to unionize. But the evidence is in beyond a reasonable doubt:

The pensions were fully funded and now they are not. The pension funds lost money because of the fraudulent, criminal enterprise Wall Street started by selling pure toxin as AAA safe investments, knowing full well that the rating and the word of big investment houses would be enough to get pension managers to jump on board.

Now the money is lost — not through bad investment decisions and not through overpayment of public workers and not for over-funding benefits for public workers — the money was lost to Wall Street because it was stolen and people should go to jail like the good old days when at least some of them went to jail for a while. The problem is not overpayment of teachers (who don’t make enough to live) — the real problem is that the private sector workers are underpaid as badly or worse than public employees. 400 people in this country make more money than 50% (100 million) of the country’s workers. Does that make sense?

The thing that makes me crazy is how obvious this is, that the media doesn’t report it, that people don’t get it, and that the pension funds of the very people who are being incited against these “public workers” are ALSO going to about to get hit IN MULTIPLE STATES for the exact same reason that Wisconsin teachers, firemen, and policemen are getting hit — the money was lost to scam on Wall Street and the States are already broke, have no credit and can’t float a loan or bond to pay those pensions or other benefits.

  • So at what point will we NOT be surprised when OTHER STATE pensions are canceled or reduced or bankrupt?

  • At what point will we NOT be surprised that the State and County governments are broke?

  • How many states will the people be required to assemble in the streets for the rest of us to get that this financial crisis has only just begun?

  • Do you really think Wisconsin is the first and last state in this crisis?

  • Chaos is coming faster than we are willing to look.

  • When will these states strike back at Wall Street and collect the money back — just like they do everyday in their criminal court systems when someone floats checks on closed accounts?

By the way, I’ve never been a public employee and I get just as annoyed at their red tape as everyone else.

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