South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

More Homeowners Can Refinance as Rates Fall While Values Nudge Upward

Posted in home affordability, Home Values, Mortgage Rates, Real estate, Refinances by southorangecounty on May 23, 2010

While the demand for mortgage loans to purchase a new home has declined following the expiration of the home buyer tax credit, mortgage applications overall, increased last week as home owners looked to refinance. Mortgage rates have reached their lowest levels since March and many homeowners are looking to refinance their mortgage loans. While falling home prices have reduced the popularity of refinancing to tap into home equity, low mortgage rates have drawn the attention of borrowers looking to reduce their interest payments.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported an increase in the number of applications for mortgage loans. The first week of May saw just under a 4 percent jump in applications from the previous week. With U.S. fixed rate mortgages hovering close to 5 percent, many homeowners jumped at the opportunity to refinance into lower mortgage rates. And with home prices starting to stabilize, the housing market is beginning to return to business as usual.

In the past few years homeowners have seen tremendous volatility in the housing market, including some of largest declines in home prices in recent memory. Falling home prices have wiped out an unprecedented amount of U.S. homeowner’s equity, shaking up the mortgage business. With home prices showing more stability, borrowers and lenders can once again be confident that once a home is refinanced its value will most likely not fall below the mortgage balance. Some borrowers have even chosen to do cash-in refinances, putting more equity into their home to qualify for lower interest rates.

Mortgage Rates Remain Incredibly Low.

Despite the Federal Reserve ending it mortgage purchasing program, mortgage rates remain low. The Mortgage Banker Association reported that they were as low as 4.96 percent for the first week of May. While above the 4.76 percent they were this time last year, the sub 5 percent rates are still historically low. Many homeowners have been waiting for rates to once again dip down and as the trend of increased mortgage loan applications indicates they are swooping in to take advantage.

In some lower price ranges, because values have nudged up over the last year, some homeowners who couldn’t refinance a year or two ago, now can – at historically low fixed rates! Look into it with your favorite loan person – I can recommend a couple of good ones.

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Best April for Orange County homebuying in 3 years

Posted in home affordability, Real estate by southorangecounty on May 18, 2010

DataQuick’s homebuying stats for April are out, and they show a real estate market still on the mend with sales of all residences of 2,669 — that’s up 11.60% in a year and the best April in 3 years. Median selling price was $430,000 — up 13.2% in a year. Also …

Slice Price Yr. ago Sales Yr. ago
Houses $505,000 +17.4% 1,704 +9.7%
Condos $299,000 +16.6% 877 +18.7%
New $629,500 +32.8% 88 -11.1%
All O.C. $430,000 +13.2% 2,669 +11.6%
  • $430,000 median selling price that is still 33% below June 2007’s peak of $645,000.
  • The most recent median is 16% above the cyclical low hit in January 2009 at $370,000 — a current bottom that was -43% below the peak.
  • Prices fell on a year-over-year basis from Sept. 2007 through August. (Worst at -31.5% in August 2008.)
  • Single-family homes resell for 31% less than their peak pricing (June ‘07) while condos sell 36% below their peak in March 2006. Builder prices for new homes are 27% below their February ‘05 top.
  • Single-family homes were 69% more expensive than condos in this period vs. 68% a year ago. From 1990-2008, the average house/condo gap was 57%.
  • 2,669 residencessold in April vs. 1997-2006 monthly sales average of 4,304 per month.
  • Builder’s new homes sales were 3% of all residences sold in the period vs. 4% a year ago. From 1990-2008, builders did 15% of the selling.

May 18th, 2010,  by Jon Lansner of the Orange County Register

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Loan modifications and short sales are gaining traction in California

Posted in Foreclosures, Loan modifications, Real estate, short sales by southorangecounty on May 16, 2010

ForeclosureRadar: Cancellations up 174% year-over-year

Foreclosure cancellations in California skyrocketed 174 percent year-over-year in April, according to a report by foreclosure data company ForeclosureRadar.

At the same time, foreclosure filings in the Golden State fell month-to-month for the first time since January. Notices of default fell 41.2 percent year-over-year and 16 percent month-to-month, while notices of trustee sale were down 3.1 percent year-over-year and 10.3 percent month-to-month.

Cancellations jumped 11.4 percent month-to-month and 174.4 percent since April 2009.

“The steady rise in cancellations leads us to believe that loan modifications and short sales are gaining traction,” said Sean O’Toole, founder and CEO of, in a statement.

“I’d caution, however, that cancellations also occur due to filing errors and extended postponements, which require the notice of trustee sale to be re-filed. In fact, 14.6 percent of new notice of trustee filings in April were on previously canceled foreclosures.”

Cancellations are one of the three possible foreclosure outcomes ForeclosureRadar tracks. The other outcomes — the property’s return to the bank as an REO and sale to a third party — also shot up year-over-year: 19.5 percent for REOs and 158.6 percent for third-party sales.

Total foreclosure inventory — which includes preforeclosures, properties scheduled for sale and REOs — was down slightly: 2.2 percent month-to-month and 2.5 percent year-over-year. Properties scheduled for sale rose about 50 percent while preforeclosures and REOs fell nearly 20 percent each.

As in March, the amount of time banks took to foreclose on a property jumped: 40.1 percent year-over-year and 6.2 percent month-to-month, to 239 days. It took banks 5.56 percent longer year-over-year (247 days) to resell a property in April after taking it back. For third parties purchasing properties at trustee sales, time to resell fell 17.4 percent to 162 days.

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Orange County homebuyers are paying as much as 16% more

Posted in home affordability, Real estate by southorangecounty on May 14, 2010

For the 22 business days ending April 27 – DataQuick’s latest homebuying report — Orange County saw …

For the 22 business days ending April 27
Slice Price Yr. ago Sales Yr. ago
Houses $504,000 +18.6% 1,638 +4.0%
Condos $298,000 +19.2% 812 +8.0%
New $610,000 +25.3% 114 +16.3%
All O.C. $435,000 +16.0% 2,564 +5.7%
  • $435,000 median selling price that is +16% vs. a year ago … yet -33% below June 2007’s peak of $645,000.
  • The most recent median is 18% above the cyclical low hit in January 2009 at $370,000 — a current bottom that was 43% below the peak.
  • Prices have risen on a year-over-year basis since September after falling from Sept. 2007 through August 2009.
  • Single-family homes resell for 31% less than their peak pricing (June ‘07) while condos sell 37% below their peak in March 2006. Builder prices for new homes are 29% below their February ‘05 top.
  • Single-family homes were 69% more expensive than condos in this period vs. 70% a year ago. From 1990-2008, the average house/condo gap was 57%.
  • In this most recent period, O.C. shoppers bought 2,564 residences — that is +5.7% vs. year-ago buying activity. (From 1997-2006, monthly sales averaged 4,304 per month.)
  • Builder’s new homes sales were 4% of all residences sold in the period vs. 4% a year ago. From 1990-2008, builders did 15% of the selling.

May 14th, 2010,  by Jon Lansner of the Orange County Register

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The shadow inventory equals shadow gibberish?

Posted in Foreclosures, Real estate, short sales by southorangecounty on May 8, 2010

Here’s an article I just read which talks about the “alleged” Shadow Inventory of foreclosures that we’ve been being warned about for the past year or two:

The shadow inventory equals shadow gibberish?

By Russell Shaw on May 8, 2010 

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One of the more remarkable methods used (even by “Intelligence Agencies”) to establish if something is true or not is to is to label it true if it came from a “reliable source”.  Who said it?  If he or she is considered reliable or an authority the data is considered true or factual.  The other – perhaps even more silly – system in use is multiple report.  If a report is is heard from several areas or people it is “true”.   Five or ten people hear the same thing and pass it along, it becomes a “fact”.

I have been hearing about the Shadow Inventory for well over a year now.  It is HUGE.  It is sensational.  A Big Giant Tsunami (BGT) of inventory is going to be unleashed by the lenders.  Get ready.  Like nothing you have ever seen.  The housing market will be flooded with inventory like never before.  No doubt it will change life as we now know it.

Only it is complete crap.  Nothing but invented data dreamed up and endlessly passed along by organizations and individuals who heard it from someone else (I have not yet tracked the original source for this shadow inventory nonsense as it seems to emanate from “everywhere”).  What is really interesting are all the “new facts” dreamed up by “industry observers” to make the Big Giant Tsunami theory still possible – in spite of the overwhelming abundance of easily observable data that would directly contradict the idea of the banks having this huge inventory that they are holding back to be released later.

I bet I have your attention now.  Some of you may even be angry – you damn well KNOW there is a shadow inventory!!!  So lets look over why I am publicly saying it isn’t true and what the thought process was for the people and organizations who have been saying (and continue to assert) it is true.  These people would have no reason to intentionally forward false data. 

So what system is being used by economists and others to calculate this shadow inventory?  Simple, take the cumulative total foreclosures recorded (the big number) and subtract the current active and pending inventory in the MLS, plus the sold MLS properties (the little number) and the remaining number is “the shadow inventory”.  Simple, quick and it requires NO LOOKING at anything – just grade school level math.

To be clear, I am NOT referring at all to any foreclosures yet to come.  Inventory the banks may wind up getting in the future.  I am only talking about NOW.  It is no secret that REO agents are losing market share as they, as a group, have less and less inventory being given to them by their asset managers.  These same asset mangers who – last year – kept telling them that they had a lot more coming in to give them.  It just never arrived for them to give.  The only REO agents I know who are doing better these days are those REO agents who deal in higher end homes.  Those high end agents are getting inventory, lots of it.  This is not to say that all across the country there is no REO inventory, there is – just less and less of it.  The BGT crowd has invented the idea that the banks have the inventory but are keeping it until the prices go up!

How about a few facts that I know are true here in the Phoenix area – and I have every reason to believe are true right across the country (as I can think of NO reason for these facts to only be true here).

Fact: In my local MLS, there are about THREE TIMES as many bank owned homes listed in the MLS as the MLS actually shows.  I know this because two guys who actually look counted them all.  One by one.(Mike Orr of The Cromford Report and Tom Ruff of The Information Market)  They counted them and compared the addresses shown in the MLS, one by one, with the County Assessor records.  These are homes listed by banks who instructed the listing agent to NOT use the term “bank owned” in the listing.

Tom Ruff and Mike Orr spent months going over every deed transfer in Maricopa County (Looking at each foreclosure going to the bank and tracking that house for its current ownership and they could directly account for all but about 5,000 houses) and established that for the Greater Phoenix Area THERE IS NO SHADOW INVENTORY. 

Fact: Major banks often off load huge portfolios of inventory to hedge funds.  Huge portfolios.  Anyone or any organization who is claiming that they are “tracking” what the banks are doing who does not have sufficient access to track those portfolio sales is simply engaging in the simple grade school math referenced five paragraphs above.

No doubt there will be some readers who remain convinced that what they have read about and then co-created must be true.  That’s okay.  If you are happy believing that a Big Giant Tsunami is coming – enjoy the wait.  However, I’m betting you remain completely dry. 

Russell Shaw

Russell has been an Associate Broker with John Hall & Associates since 1978 and ranks in the top 1% of all agents in the U.S. Most recently The Wall Street Journal recognized the Top 200 Agents in America, awarding Russell # 25 for number of units sold. Russell has been featured in many books such as, “The Billion Dollar Agent” by Steve Kantor and “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent” by Gary Keller and has often been a featured speaker for national conventions and routinely speaks at various state and local association conventions. Visit him also and

Note from Bob Phillips:  I think Punxsutawney Phil will be looking for THIS shadow for a long time to come.

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Why the predicted “Wave of Foreclosures” may just be a ripple

Posted in Foreclosures, Real estate, short sales by southorangecounty on May 6, 2010

There is an interesting phenomenon going on, even while doom & gloom bloggers predict gigantic Tsunami’s of foreclosures heading our way. The following is excerpted from an article out of Texas this week.

“Every week, new home sellers are hitting the market, basing their initial asking prices on recent contracts, sales, and other active listings, and influencing active market prices.  And what does this have to do with foreclosures?  It provides a glimpse into housing market psychology.

Homeowner Henry down in Texas is underwater in his mortgage, or at a minimum, feels some personal economic strain.  He’s trying to determine if he’s in a walk-away situation or not, with his decision metrics at least partially based on his local housing market conditions.  As Henry starts to see active houses sell quickly, get multiple bids, and fetch a decent price, he starts to think – “Hey – maybe the market’s not so bad.  Things are starting to sell at a good price.  I’m going to hang on for another couple of months.  I don’t really want to move anyway, and if the market is improving, I can start to gain back some of that on-paper loss.”  Aggregating this behavior and market psychology yields fewer delinquencies and foreclosures in the short run.

Looking at delinquencies rates and housing market conditions in 2009, the peak in delinquencies were exactly correlated to the trough in home prices.  As the 2009 housing market strengthened and prices accelerated through the Spring, delinquencies fell simultaneously.

And speaking of Texas, Steve Brown of the Dallas Morning News published “Dallas-Fort Worth home foreclosure filings drop 12%” today in which he writes:  Home foreclosures have turned lower for next month’s forced sales.  The 4,861 Dallas-Fort Worth homes scheduled for foreclosure in May represent a 12 percent decline from year-earlier totals. And foreclosure filings are down 21 percent from the recent peak in March, Addison-based Foreclosure Listing Service said Thursday.  His article also provides some local data points of foreclosure rates by county in the Dallas Metro area. 

Home foreclosures have turned lower for next month’s forced sales. The 4,861 Dallas-Fort Worth homes scheduled for foreclosure in May represent a 12 percent decline from year-earlier totals.  And foreclosure filings are down 21 percent from the recent peak in March, Addison-based Foreclosure Listing Service said Thursday. 

Let’s take a look at active housing prices for these counties.  The two markets with the largest decline in foreclosure filings (a good thing) – Dallas and Tarrant County – have housing markets with median ask prices that hit an trough point in March (when foreclosure filings were higher) and are seeing an clear increase each week in the Prices of New Listings.” ( End of excerpt.)

This is a big reason why you shouldn’t be paying as much attention to dire warnings from doom & gloom bloggers, about huge waves of new foreclosures on the horizon.  As distressed homeowners – especially in the lowest price ranges – see their local markets improving, they are far more likely to hang in there, instead of giving up and going through a credit destroying foreclosure.

And because in some areas – such as my Orange County – the lower price ranges have actually increased in value by over 10% in the past 14 months, many who were considering a short sale can now actually have an equity sale, which has even stronger demand ( read higher prices.) from today’s throngs of willing buyers.  If you are a homeowner who thinks that you’re underwater, you just might have another think coming.

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Tax credit deadline ignites buying frenzy

Posted in home affordability, Real estate, taxes by southorangecounty on May 2, 2010

April 30th, 2010, · posted by Jeff Collins of the Orange County Register

A lot of last-minute homebuying decisions were made Friday as buyers rushed to qualify for a federal tax credit that expired that day.

Buyers needed to have a signed contracts in hand to get a credit of $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers. They also must close escrow by June 30.

“I think there’s definitely some last-minute scurrying around,” said Tustin agent Charles Folcke. “I’m sure that if some offers are accepted (this weekend), agents are going to backdate it.”

“Lots of quick decisions (were) made this week from our fabulous last-minute type of folks,” added Huntington Beach agent Vivian Young. “I’ve been showing property for lots of clients the entire month to quickly get them under contract before the month ends.”

Broker Steve Thomas of Altera Real Estate reported that the number of deals signed increased 6.2 percent from two weeks ago and 10 percent over the past month.

“Buyers are pushing their way into escrow, but I think the momentum will carry even after the expiration,” Thomas said.

Coto de Caza agent Bob Phillips spent part of Friday dashing from Santa Ana to Capistrano Beach, then to a listing agent’s office to get a signed contract to an East Coast bank in time for its approval.

His clients got outbid Thursday, after offering $11,000 over the asking price on a bank-owned home. His cell phone rang at 6 a.m. Friday with news that the top bidder got cold feet and backed out.

He had to drive to both clients’ work places to get their signatures, then dash over to the listing agent’s office for the bank’s approval.

“I am now going to drive to Dana Point to open the escrow before they close at 5 p.m.,” he said Friday. “It has been an exciting day.”

Several agents noted that buyers stopped looking at homes listed as short sales, or selling below what’s owed the bank, since lenders typically are pokey in responding to offers.

Thomas and others predicted that the $200,000 set aside for the California tax credit likely will be exhausted in a month, rather than in the seven months allotted for it.

“There is still a lot of confusion about the California tax credit, which will last about a minute,” Thomas said. “The first 17,500 lucky first-time home buyers win and everybody else is going to be upset.”

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Debate Rages Over the Supply of Foreclosed Homes

Posted in Foreclosures, Real estate, Uncategorized by southorangecounty on April 29, 2010

Debate Rages Over the Supply of Foreclosed Homes

Why is there such a fierce debate about whether the housing market is slowly healing or heading for another free fall? Partly because no one can estimate with much confidence how many foreclosed homes banks need to sell or how fast they are getting rid of all that property.

A huge chunk of today’s housing supply comes from homes that have been acquired by banks or mortgage investors through foreclosure, plus those that are being offered by people who hope to avoid foreclosure by doing “short sales,” selling their homes for less than the mortgage balance due. The National Association of Realtors estimates that such “distressed” situations accounted for 35% of home sales in February and March.

The latest heroic attempt to tally how many foreclosed homes are available for sale comes from analysts at Barclays Capital in New York. They estimate that banks and mortgage investors including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owned 480,000 homes at the end of February. That’s far lower than previous estimates. Barclays explains that it has acquired more data on mortgages and refined its methods for analyzing foreclosure trends. Under the bank’s previous methods, the estimate for February would have been more than 600,000.

Estimating the inventory of foreclosed homes is tricky because thousands of banks and others that own the properties disclose those holdings in varying ways, if at all. RealtyTrac Inc., another data provider and one of the few other firms that regularly makes such calculations, estimates that banks and mortgage investors own 758,000 foreclosed homes.

So we have a pretty big gap. Is it 480,000 as Barclays thinks, or 758,000, as per RealtyTrac? Tom Lawler, an independent housing economist who tracks reams of housing data when he isn’t tending the livestock on his farm near Leesburg, Va., figures the total is more than 550,000 but probably less than the RealtyTrac estimate.

“What is truly disturbing,” Mr. Lawler wrote in his daily housing-market commentary Wednesday, “is that given all of the economic data the government tracks, the sector it appears to track the worst is…the housing market!  Why is it that the government has not deployed more resources to better track and report data on the housing inventory, households, home sales, home prices, and, of course, foreclosures and the number of homeowners who have lost their home to foreclosure?”

(That’s an especially good question given that the U.S. government has a bit of exposure to the housing market. Inside Mortgage Finance reports that mortgages backed by government-related entities – Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the FHA and the VA – accounted for more than 96% of home loans originated in the first quarter.)

Whatever the number of homes that banks, the federal agencies and private mortgage investors own now, it’s likely to increase. Barclays expects the inventory generally to rise over the next 20 months, peaking at 536,000 in January 2012, and then decline gradually.

To get a rough sense of how many more households will lose their homes to foreclosures or related actions, Barclays tallies what it calls a “shadow inventory,” consisting of homeowners 90 days or more overdue on mortgage payments or already in the foreclosure process. At the end of February, 4.6 million households were in that category.

Barclays expects 1.6 million “distressed sales” of homes – mainly foreclosures or short sales – both this year and in 2011, then a slight decline to 1.5 million in 2012. Last year, Barclays estimates, such sales totaled 1.5 million. Around 30% of all home sales this year and next will be foreclosure-related, forecasts Robert Tayon, a mortgage analyst at Barclays, who says that would be only about 6% in a normal housing market.

Barclays expects U.S. home prices on average to fall another 3% to 5% over the next couple of years, adding to a decline of about 30% already recorded since 2006. That forecast assumes a gradual improvement in the unemployment rate to 8% within the next two years from 9.7% in March. The home-price picture would worsen if job growth sputters or banks “push homes through the foreclosure pipeline faster than expected,” Mr. Tayon says.

Efforts to avert foreclosures by offering many borrowers lower payments have slowed the flow of homes into bank ownership. In some parts of the country, such as the Las Vegas area and Orange County, Calif., that has left bargain-hunters frustrated by what they see as a shortage of bank-owned properties in attractive neighborhoods.

In the Las Vegas area, foreclosed homes accounted for 56% of sales in March, down from 73% a year earlier, according to MDA DataQuick, a research firm.

This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal on April 28th, 2010, written by James R. Hagerty

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : April 26, 2010

Posted in home affordability, mortgage rates, Real estate, Refinances, Uncategorized by southorangecounty on April 26, 2010

Federal Reserve meets Apr 27-28 2010Mortgage markets worsened last week in see-saw trading. By the time Friday’s market closed, mortgage rates were higher across the board — ARMs, fixed rates, FHA and conventional.

The biggest stories of last week were actually non-stories. 

First, the ash cloud from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano dissipated, allowing warehouses to move inventory, airlines to move people, and businesses to move product.  In addition, Greece moved closer to securing emergency funding that will help it stave off default.

When these two issues were threats earlier in the month, mortgage bonds rallied on safe haven buying, driving rates down. As the threats lessened over the course of last week, however, mortgage bonds sold off and mortgage rates rose.

By contrast, this week features lots of stories. Economic data will be at the forefront, as will the Federal Reserve which meets for one of its 8 scheduled meetings of the year.

  • Monday : Greece is expected to announce an aid package
  • Tuesday : Case-Shiller Index reports on home values from February
  • Wednesday : Fed adjourns from its 2-day meeting
  • Thursday : Initial Unemployment Claims are released
  • Friday : GDP and consumer confidence numbers are released

Furthermore, Wall Street will have its eye on the Senate’s questioning of key Goldman Sachs employees in the wake of the SEC’s fraud charge.

In general, news that’s “good” for the U.S. economy will be bad for mortgage rates, and vice verse.  And with mortgage rates changing as quickly as they have been, rates could really rise in a hurry.

The best defense against rising mortgage rates is to execute a rate lock. If you’re nervous about rates moving higher, call your loan officer and execute your rate lock today.

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How Iceland’s Volcanoes Are Helping Mortgage Rates Fall

Posted in home affordability, mortgage rates, Real estate, Refinances by southorangecounty on April 21, 2010


Mortgage rates react to natural disastersMortgage rates and home affordability have improved lately, thanks to an unlikely ally — Mother Nature.

In the 7 days since Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull erupted, ash clouds have grounded planes, disrupted businesses, and stranded exports in warehouses worldwide.

It’s a drag on commerce that’s spilled over onto Wall Street. As experts debate the potential for future seismic activity, traders are taking some of their investment risk off the table. 

In trading circles, it’s called “safe haven buying”. When the market gets cloudy, investors often move their cash into relatively safe assets.  This includes government-backed securities — mortgage-bonds among them.

Demand for bonds rise, pushing up prices and driving down rates.

Conforming and FHA mortgage rates touched a 3-week low earlier this week.

Volcanic eruptions and like natural disasters remind us: mortgage rates change for all sorts of reasons. Some we can predict, most we cannot. There’s literally thousands of influences on the U.S. mortgage market.

If you’ve been shopping for a home or floating a mortgage rate, luck’s been on your side. Mortgage rates have fallen post-Eyjafjallajökull. However, as ash clouds dissipate and business resumes worldwide, investors will regain their collective appetite for risk and safe haven buying will reach its natural end.

When that happens, mortgage rates will rise.

Therefore, use the seismic uncertainty to your advantage.  Consider locking your mortgage rate sooner rather than later — while rates are still low.

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