Some foreclosure stats, and a sea-change in REO selling approaches

The WSJ’s James Hagerty pumps out some interesting stats on the foreclosure market in a Monday column — even if he does make the mistake of taking recent, questionable HOPE NOW data at face value. Some numbers:

Lenders and investors in mortgages owned about 660,000 foreclosed homes in April, up from 493,000 in January and 231,000 in January 2007, according to First American CoreLogic … Some lenders now are cutting prices as often as every 20 days on homes that aren’t selling, said David McCarthy, chief executive officer of Integrated Asset Services LLC, a Denver-based company that helps banks value and sell REO homes … In dollar terms, foreclosed one- to four-family homes owned by lenders whose deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. more than doubled to $8.56 billion at the end of the first quarter from $3.59 billion a year earlier. The REO glut is weighing on house prices in many areas, as banks tend to cut prices faster than other sellers. A new set of local home-price indexes, to be introduced this week by Integrated Asset Services, shows that the median price of homes sold in Riverside County, Calif., in April was down about 29% from a year earlier. The median price fell about 13% in Clark County, Nev., and 12% in Arizona’s Maricopa and Pima counties.

We personally find it somewhat amusing that the press has now picked up the mantra that “banks tend to cut prices faster than other sellers” — because that hasn’t been anything remotely close to gospel until very recently. In fact, what we were hearing early on in this credit mess was that many REO agents couldn’t sell because institutional sellers were too rigid and asset managers weren’t being aggressive enough in cutting prices. Now we’re hearing that institutional sellers are among the most aggressive. In truth, it means that liquidity issues are now severe enough that many banks and other institutional sellers are having to force the issue on the sales front, while many traditional retail sellers don’t yet face that sort of pressure. The result is the “tale of two markets” that we covered separately on Monday; watch for a flood of major press stories to follow around this issue in the next few months. Maybe even using the same Charles Dickens reference.

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