Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
The government launched a new effort on Monday to speed up the time-consuming, often-frustrating process of selling your home if you owe more than it's worth.
The Obama administration will give $3,000 for moving expenses to homeowners who complete such a sale -- known as a short sale -- or agree to turn over the deed of the property to the lender. It's designed for homeowners who are in financial trouble but don't qualify for the administration's $75 billion mortgage modification program.
Owners will still lose their homes, but a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure doesn't hurt a borrower's credit score for as much time as a foreclosure. For lenders, a home usually fetches more money in a short sale than a foreclosure. And the bank avoids expensive legal bills, cleanup fees and maintenance costs that follow a foreclosure.
"It's very traumatic and embarrassing and frustrating to go through a foreclosure," said Laurie Maggiano, policy director of the Treasury Department's homeownership preservation office. With a short sale, she said, "your financial issues are your own problem and not neighborhood conversation."
Falling home prices and lost jobs have forced many sellers into this position. For example, in Orange County, Calif., short sales made up about 26 percent of the market in March, compared with 17 percent a year earlier, according to data complied by Altera Real Estate, a local brokerage. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, about 12 percent of all deals since October were short sales, up from about 8 percent a year earlier, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors.
The expanded incentives will help accelerate short sales, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. He expects 350,000 homeowners nationwide to use the program through the end of 2012, more than double his earlier forecast.
For buyers, though, short sales can be a great opportunity.
Along with the financial incentives, the new government program makes another key change. Mortgage companies will have to set their minimum bid before the house is listed for sale. If the offer is above that, the lender must accept it.
That's a big change from current practice. Lenders generally don't calculate how much money they are willing to accept on a short sale until they have an offer in hand, causing long delays before the sale is approved.
The new program "will give us a degree of efficiency that we have not had in the past," said Matt Vernon, Bank of America's executive in charge of short sales and foreclosed properties.
Under the new process, buyers who submit an offer to purchase a home in a short sale should get a response within two weeks, as opposed to months. If that happens as planned, it would be a big improvement. Real estate agents across the country have complained that lenders are often difficult to reach, sometimes only communicating by e-mail and infrequently at that.
Some real estate agents who specialize in short sales are optimistic. Most borrowers in Las Vegas, owe so much more on their mortgages than their properties are worth they can't qualify for a loan modification.
The Treasury Department outlined the plan last November, but doubled the original $1,500 in relocation money after realizing that many homeowners need more cash to move out. That's because landlords usually want large deposits from people whose credit records have gone sour after missing mortgage payments.
However, there are plenty of restrictions. To qualify, the home needs to be a borrower's primary residence. Homeowners either have to be behind on their mortgages or on the verge of becoming delinquent.
Currently, the program is not available for mortgages owned or guaranteed by mortgage finance companies
Friday, March 26, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
In a 17-page memo titled, "The Language of Financial Reform," Luntz urged opponents of reform to frame the final product as filled with bank bailouts, lobbyist loopholes, and additional layers of complicated government bureaucracy.
"If there is one thing we can all agree on, it's that the bad decisions and harmful policies by Washington bureaucrats that in many ways led to the economic crash must never be repeated," Luntz wrote. "This is your critical advantage. Washington's incompetence is the common ground on which you can build support."
Luntz continued: "Ordinarily, calling for a new government program 'to protect consumers' would be extraordinary popular. But these are not ordinary times. The American people are not just saying 'no.' They are saying 'hell no' to more government agencies, more bureaucrats, and more legislation crafted by special interests."
In Republican circles Luntz's words, which have helped the party score win the message wars over health care and other legislative battles, are often treated as gospel. Already, some of the advice he's offered on regulatory reform has found its way into the political discourse -- with a proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency seemingly on life support under Republican objections.
In addition to tying regulatory reform to a massive government takeover, Luntz's memo includes several other data points and messaging suggestions as a blue print for the legislation's defeat. Opponents, he writes, would be well served to link the package to the financial industry bailout (which, it should be noted, is fundamentally not part of the legislation). According to accompanying polling data, 52 percent of voters said they would be "much less likely" to vote for their member of Congress if they voted for a financial reform bill that contained a fund to bail out banks and Wall Street.
"Public outrage about the bailout of banks and Wall Street is a simmering time bomb set to go off on Election Day," Luntz wrote. "Frankly, the single best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the Big Bank Bailout."
Another effective strategy to kill the bill, according to Luntz, is to make the case that it was written in secret by lobbyists.
"The American people are tired of add-ons, earmarks, and backroom deals - but they are mad as hell at 'lobbyist loopholes,'" Luntz wrote. "You must put proponents of the legislation on the defense, forcing them to attempt to justify the 'lobbyist loopholes' and exemptions placed in the bill... Highlight the exemptions. Broadcast them. Remind them, 'The legislation is filled with lobbyist loopholes that exclude certain wealthy, powerful industries from regulations.'"
On the specific issue of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, Luntz argued that opponents should stress the high-cost of creating an additional regulatory body in addition to the damaging effects it will supposedly have on "small business owners" (as opposed to, merely, small businesses).
"Owning a small business is part of the American Dream and Congress should make it easier to be an entrepreneur," wrote Luntz. "But the Financial Reform bill and the creation of the CFPA makes it harder to be a small business owner because it will choke off credit options to small business owners."
These lines or arguments are similar to the ones used by regulatory reform opponents in the past, often with some success. What's telling is that they are being trotted out again in this type of economic environment.
Luntz does seem to acknowledge that the climate makes defeating regulatory reform a bit trickier. At the top of his memo he urges opponents (primarily Republican lawmakers) to "acknowledge the need for reform that ensures this NEVER happens again," He insists that "the status quo is not an option" and that members of Congress, when addressing the crisis, "never forget its impact on your audience." Luntz even advise his audience to promote themselves the agents of change.
But for the sake of winning the debate, he adds, it is vital to insist that such change does not include additional Washington-based regulatory powers.
"Many of the same members of Congress responsible for the legislation that helped create the housing bubble and the Wall Street financial crisis are now attempting to create another new government agency with an unlimited budget and almost unlimited regulatory powers," wrote the GOP wordsith. "I'm sorry to say this but they don't know what they're doing. They have gotten it wrong time and time again..."
"A new agency with new bureaucrats is not change we can believe in," Luntz wrote. "It's not change at all."
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
People all over the country are choosing to move their money out of bigger banks and into smaller, community-oriented financial institutions that generally avoided the reckless investments and schemes that helped cause the financial crisis.
Fueled by the personal initiatives of thousands, it’s a grassroots effort that has the potential to shift power in the financial system away from Wall Street and to Main Street.
- Smaller financial institutions are better equipped to have a cooperative approach with customers because they are less riddled by debt, which means they can more freely lend money.
“Community banks are much more likely to reinvest that money in the community and actually help create jobs,” Huffington Post editor Arianna Huffington said on MSNBC.
No matter the impact, “Move Your Money” is a better public response to national bank bailouts than apathy or boisterous tea parties. It is a promising solution for Americans fed up with how their money is handled.
~ Nico Pitney on MSNBC – January 12, 2010