Saturday, April 23, 2011

Safety, Security and Home Sellers

One uncomfortable fact associated with selling your house is that, to the extent that one is successful in getting "traffic" through the residence, one will have strangers coming into the house.  Prospective buyers will look into closets, cupboards and virtually any other area of the home.  Further, they may have an ulterior motive for entering the home.

The "buyer" might be a thief looking for a quick and easy score.  Prescription drugs and valuables must be locked away during any showings or risk the loss when they disappear.   

The "buyer" also may be a thief casing the home for future re-entry.  In Menasha, Wisconsin, recent news reports reference three burglars who may have accessed the property during a showing.  The invasion occurred the night after a real estate agent had shown the property.  The home was entered, the home-owners tied up, and the house burglarized.

Even worse than theft or home invasion was the tragic 2008 case of the murder of 71 year old Cambridge real estate licensee Ann Nelson by a man to whom she was showing a home for sale.  Other high-profile attacks following similar circumstances are the recent cases of Ashley Okland, an agent murdered in Iowa and Vivian Martin who was robbed of $56 and strangled by "home buyer" thiefs.

There is no fail-safe way to guard against these risks, but it is important to know with whom one is dealing, to be vigilant in alerting someone else whenever a stranger is in the home, and to use common sense in guarding one's safety and property.

Real estate attorney James N. Graham,

Friday, April 22, 2011

What is happening to commercial real estate markets?

Where is the commercial real estate market headed?

According to Moody’s Investors Service, commercial real estate property prices fell the past 3 months and the market is “dangerously close to double dip territory." The service’s REAL Commercial Property Price Index (CPPI) showed prices near the market’s “post-peak low” set in August of 2010.

Yet two days ago, USA Today reported "The once-dismal commercial real estate market is turning around far more quickly than analysts expected, with troubled loans falling, occupancy rising and office building sales surging in the largest markets."
Commercial real estate's improving health exceeds forecasts

Prices are falling, but foreclosures are down and occupancies up?  True, some of this inconsistency can be explained by the old adage "all real estate is local."  One really must examine the particular market.  But is something else happening in the aggregate that is apparently creating this strange dynamic?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

WSJ Reports on Bank Regulations Relating to Foreclosure

The Wall Street Journal reports on penalties and enforcement orders relating to the foreclosure practices conducted by many of the largest home lenders. 

Big Banks Get Foreclosure Orders

Regulators Detail Steps Lenders Must Take to Revamp Processes; Fines Are Still to Come

U.S. regulators hit the nation's largest banks with a first round of sweeping penalties for improper home-foreclosure practices, issuing detailed orders to revamp the way they deal with troubled borrowers.  The orders issued on Wednesday to 14 financial institutions didn't include fines. Officials said they are coming.
"There will be civil money penalties; the question is timing and amount. But we're not letting that clock run forever," Acting Comptroller of the Currency John Walsh told reporters. The orders were issued by his office, the Federal Reserve and the Office of Thrift Supervision.
The regulators issued the orders to the nation's four largest banks—Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. Also receiving orders were Ally Financial Inc., HSBC Holdings PLC, MetLife Inc., PNC Financial Services Group Inc., SunTrust Banks Inc., U.S. Bancorp, Aurora Bank, EverBank, OneWest Bank and Sovereign Bank.  Bank of America, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan and Citigroup were ordered to revamp mortgage-lending practices.
Under the orders, banks have 60 days to establish plans to clean up their mortgage-servicing processes to prevent documentation errors.  The orders also direct banks to take steps to ensure they have enough staff to handle the flood of foreclosures, that foreclosures don't happen when a borrower is receiving a loan modification and that borrowers have a single point of contact throughout the loan-modification and foreclosure process.
Banks must hire an independent consultant to conduct a "look back" of all foreclosure proceedings from 2009 and 2010 to evaluate whether they improperly foreclosed on any homeowners and require each company to establish its own process to consider whether to compensate borrowers who have been harmed.  Critics, including other regulators, believe this process and other aspects of the orders leave too much discretion to banks.