Last week, HousingWire ran a well-read story on bulk REO sales that suggested the Treasury's decision not to invest in troubled assets had energized possible bulk sales. It generated a fair amount of response. Of course, we received the requisite flood of emails from eager investors wondering who they could buy from, and could we hook them up with a contact or two? (Answer: um, no). But a few market participants/insiders also suggested that while investor interest remains high, selling is still limited to a trickle here and a trickle there -- mostly from regionals, and nothing from the big boys as of yet. Today's WSJ tackles the same issue, which we'd like to think is because James Hagerty reads us regularly. He finds that insider sentiment to be right on: lenders are "tiptoeing" into the bulk business. From the story:
So far, no major lender has fully embraced the idea of selling in bulk. In many cases, they say prices that investors are demanding remain too low. The banks say they can get more money for most homes selling them through local agents. If investors buy homes and quickly flip them for a higher price, banks feel they have just let a middleman earn proceeds they should have been able to get on their own. "We are getting a ton of bottom fishers," says Barbara Desoer, president of mortgage and insurance services at Bank of America Corp., but the prices being offered aren't attractive. Ms. Desoer says Bank of America, which this year became the nation's largest mortgage lender by acquiring Countrywide Financial, isn't doing bulk sales for now. Still, others are starting to experiment on a limited basis. Wells Fargo, the nation's second-largest home mortgage lender, expects to keep selling most of the homes one by one through local agents. But in the past six months, the bank has completed half a dozen bulk sales and is evaluating another one, says Ben Windust, a senior vice president at the banking company.
We've heard about the Wells deals, which have generated plenty of hope among the investors we speak to. And we do know of two other top-five servicers that are looking at bulk sales in the near future (and to reiterate: no, we won't disclose who they are, so don't email us asking). While the pace is a trickle, it's probably time to look for a pickup here in the next few months. Banks are having to slash local prices so heavily anyway, bulk deals might start to look less like bottom fishing and more like straight selling by the middle of next year. Just a guess.