News from the US

Late last year we talked about the coming opportunities of buying real estate in the U.S. At that time, it seemed reasonable to be talking the fall of this year.

But you can forget that. The mortgage problems aren’t anywhere near an end and right now the problems are feeding on themselves and making things worse and not better.

There are a ton of foreclosures, averaging around 7,000 A DAY, and that’s bad enough by itself. But what’s happening now is that people who have been paying all the way along are becoming hard-pressed and discouraged.

They’ve seen foreclosures all around them but have been paying on a home that’ worth nowhere near what they owe. Ballpark? $50 to $100,000 or more in the hole. So many of those are now mailing back their keys and giving up. Banks call it jingle-mails as the keys are mailed back to them.

Others, and in growing numbers, are looking down the street at a foreclosure. That house, same street, so probably very similar in size, etc. is now $100,000 or so less than they owe! So many people are now buying that foreclosed home, setting up the mortgage and then sending back the keys to their home. Yes, this buying and bailing as it’s called, wrecks their credit rating, but they’ve first bought another home on the same block.

It’s not right, it’s not moral, but it’s happening in ever increasing numbers while Congress keeps coming up with bailout plans, the vast majority of which are designed to help lenders and not homeowners.

It doesn’t help that mortgage lenders are totally overwhelmed and often don’t even return calls, never mind helping homeowners restructure their loans and the whole process keeps feeding on itself: Foreclosures get dumped on the market at any price, more people are forced to re-finance at higher rates they can’t afford, seeing their home dropping more and more in value as foreclosures surround them, giving up on their payments, which puts even more houses into foreclosure.

Oh, and a recent survey reports that about half of all foreclosures have significant damage such as ruined floors, carpets, holes punched into walls and missing appliances, all of which reduce the home values by about another 25%, according to the survey.

In Miami, the home inventory is about three years, based on normal sales volume – and what on earth is “normal” these days. And even in Arizona, it’s more than a years’ worth of surplus inventory.

So hurry up and wait…maybe next fall if you’re thinking of buying down there.

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