Foreclosure scandal impact: Sales dry up

By Les Christie, staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Big banks are having trouble restarting the foreclosure process after this fall's "robo-signing" scandal, and the once booming market for foreclosed homes has been hit hard as a result.

According to ForeclosureRadar, the number of properties coming to auction in hard-hit western states -- Arizona, California and Nevada -- has dropped more than 30%.

In San Diego, according to broker Scott Cheng of Cheng Realty, who puts investors together with foreclosed properties, the number of auctions scheduled has fallen from 500 a day, to 300. "That part of my business has dried up," Cheng said. "A lot of my investors have stopped looking."

Cheng used to be able to find about three or four suitable homes a month for investors looking for a bargain. Now, he hasn't done one of these deals since August.

"The ones who are really upset are the investors, who buy on the courthouse steps," said Kevin Berman, a broker with Bankers Realty Services in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "There used to be sometimes 700 sales a day. Now there are like, seven."

In September, several banks -- including Ally, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase -- acknowledged problems with their foreclosure procedures. Employees had been signing as many as several hundred documents a day in which they sometimes attested to facts that they had no personal knowledge of, calling into question the legitimacy of the foreclosures. (See "I was a Robo-signer")

The banks initiated foreclosure moratoriums, promised a full review of all cases, and to resume foreclosures quickly. But the review process has been slow-going.

Investors had been doing brisk business, buying distressed properties on the cheap, sprucing them up and flipping them. But now they are being far more cautious.

"Their concern is that homeowners will be more aggressive in fighting foreclosures even after the auction sale," said Sean O'Toole, CEO of ForeclosureRadar.

For vulture investors, speed is essential -- they do not want to tie up investments for months while attorneys argue.

They are also worried about being able to unload the property. Berman represented one investor who had purchased at auction, fixed the home up and went to contract with a buyer, who then backed out of the $240,000 deal. "His attorney told him he could find out the foreclosure wasn't done right," said Berman.

Pressure on the market for distressed properties could last if delinquent borrowers are less likely to give up on their homes, according to Duane LeGate, CEO of Georgia-based House Buyer Network.

Troubled borrowers go to LeGate for help selling their homes in short sales, in which they sell for less than the price of their mortgage. LeGate says his business dropped more than 30% the week after news of the robo-signing scandal broke, and has stayed down since. His theory: homeowners think the bank will have a tough time kicking them out in this environment, and that they can live for free for a while. He says he's got two friends who intend to do just that.

"After that, they'll just take their medicine," said LeGate. In the meantime, they can pay off other debts and build up nest-eggs.

O'Toole believes the legal issues involved in robo-signing will ultimately be settled in favor of the banks.

"The fear that has been created in based more in hype than in law," he said.

Whether the hype is to blame or not, the last thing the weak housing market needed was to shake the confidence of already nervous consumers. To top of page


Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.01%4.03%
15 yr fixed3.12%2.97%
5/1 ARM3.11%2.99%
30 yr refi4.04%4.09%
15 yr refi3.15%3.05%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
  • Find Homes for sale
    Real estate and homes for sale on Trulia

  • Property Type
  • Find a home in: New York | Atlanta | Chicago | Los Angeles
  • Washington D.C | Houston | Philadelphia | More options
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,804.80 26.65 0.15%
Nasdaq 4,765.38 16.98 0.36%
S&P 500 2,070.65 9.42 0.46%
Treasuries 2.18 -0.03 -1.27%
Data as of 8:53pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.62 0.09 0.51%
Apple Inc 111.78 -0.87 -0.77%
General Electric Co 25.62 0.48 1.91%
Intel Corp 36.37 -0.65 -1.76%
Microsoft Corp 47.66 0.14 0.29%
Data as of Dec 19

Sections

New York Magazine reporter Jessica Pressler, who has been caught up in controversy this past week, will not be moving on to a new job at Bloomberg News. More

Investors beware: These 5 global crises are likely to rattle the stock market and world economy. More

Forums in dark corners of the web sell the kinds of hacks that befell Sony. More

Unilever sued Hampton Creek over its egg-free mayonnaise spread Just Mayo. But the company behind Best Foods and Hellman's mayonnaise has now dropped the lawsuit. More

The income of the top 1% jumped significantly in 2012, far outpacing inflation. Not only did this group make a larger share of the country's income, their share of total taxes also jumped from 35% to 38%. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.