Lenders are canceling more foreclosure sales in California than ever before, and new financial and political demand for short sales could be the culprit. Lenders canceled nearly 22,000 California foreclosure sales in June, driven mostly by JPMorgan Chase (JPM). It’s a 27% increase from May, a 153% growth from a year ago, and an all-time high, according to ForeclosureRadar, which tracks foreclosures in the state. Foreclosure sales can be canceled for successful loan modifications, short sales, a legal requirement, or even a filing error. In terms of strategy, a spokesperson for JPMorgan Chase said the bank has not made any policy shifts to cancel more foreclosure sales. According to ForeclosureRadar, a certain number of the cancellations can be attributed to pending modifications and short sales, but homeowners and real estate agents have complained to the company of sales that were canceled without either. “We have seen a shift over the last couple of months where homeowners want this process to be over and they want to start to rebuild,” said a spokesperson for ForeclosureRadar. Researchers at the company received varying answers as to why the cancellations are up. The best answer came from one unnamed REO professional. According to the source, the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program had the most to do with the cancellations. The Treasury Department launched HAFA in April to provide incentives to servicers for conducting short sales and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure to homeowners who fail the Treasury’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). “Now that servicers have systems in place to administer the program they are removing delinquent loans from the foreclosure pipeline to allow a reasonable short sale time period,” the source told ForeclosureRadar. “Predictably (also my opinion) the period would be expiring just after the November elections so there would be less political blowback as those properties that don’t conclude with a successful short sale are taken to foreclosure and ultimately, REO.” After foreclosure activity dropped across the board in May, new foreclosure notices increased 6.7% in June, and notices of trustee sale jumped 21%. In fact, notices of trustee sales have outnumbered preliminary notices of default for the past four months. The gap really widened in June, when there were almost 9,000 more notices of trustee sale. But this trend could become the norm as banks have to restart more foreclosures than they initiate. “Historically it is very unusual to have more Notice of Trustee Sale filings than Notices of Default” says Sean O’Toole, founder and CEO of ForeclosureRadar. “But with skyrocketing cancellations and the possibility of failing loan modifications, this will be increasingly common, as lenders are only required to file a Notice of Trustee Sale to restart the foreclosure process.” Lenders pushed 23% fewer properties into REO status in June and 46% less than a year ago. The amount of properties that have received a notice of default but have not yet been scheduled for sale increased 8.8% in June, but further along the foreclosure pipline, inventory remains constricted. The amount properties scheduled for sale dropped 1%, and REO inventory declined 4.8% in June. Write to Jon Prior. Disclosure: the author holds no relevant investments.
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