Tag Archives: mortgages

The Vultures Are Circling the Housing Market

New Orleans      Following right behind the crisis that tenants are facing with the eviction situation clouded in different courts and interpretations and no stimulus in the offing, mortgage holders are in a similar mess as the pandemic depression lengthens.  REITs and private equity operators on Wall Street are raising mountains of cash once again to see if they can exploit the crisis as they did in the 2007-2008 Great Recession by flipping foreclosures from homeowners into rental property.

A common line in the farm crisis of the 1970s, when tens of thousands lost their land, was the problem of being “land rich and dirt poor,” where if your grandfather had paid off the land, you might survive, but if not, you were going under.  A headline in the Wall Street Journal on the vultures circling desperate home owners was reminiscent, speaking of the numbers of people who were “home rich and cash poor.”  The story noted a disturbing statistic,

Some 3.5 million home loans—a 7.01% share—were in forbearance as of Sept. 6, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Many more borrowers are behind on their payments but not in forbearance programs with their lenders.

The disaster profiteers are making single family homes their war zone whether outside of city center cores or in the suburbs, and they are rolling in money.  The big winners then are now among the nation’s largest landlords.

So far these companies have reported record occupancy, on-time rent collection on par with historical averages and rising rents. Shares of … Invitation Homes Inc. and American Homes 4 Rent, are up 79% and 59%, respectively, since stocks bottomed….

The vultures may not be as large outside of the suburbs, but they are as ravenous.  An article in Shelterforce referencing a recent report on all-cash purchases in New York City made this critical and disturbing observation,

Because COVID-19 has an outsized impact on lower-income Black and Latino families, it will intensify the disadvantage these families have in the face of cash purchasers who use their resources to pick up single-family homes, co-ops, and condos,” reads the report. It could also result in rising prices and fewer affordable homes available for sale overall, a potential increase in the number of distressed neighborhoods anchored by fewer local landlords or homeowners, and a growing concentration of housing in a small number of for-profit hands.

Shelterforce notes that some community developers in some cities are better situated to protect some of this housing as affordable and to modify some of the properties they acquire, but if the impact of this depression is anywhere near that of 2007-2008, it will be a drop in the ocean in most of the country.

Once again, we have to fear that without a huge federal and state response, this isn’t going to end well for millions of families.

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“Contract for Deed” Housing Purchases are Predatory and Discriminatory

House and Money with Pad of Paper and Pen

Little Rock   Reports indicate that more than three million people have bought houses under “contract for deed” purchases. Since many, if not most, of these kinds of housing purchases are not recorded, who really knows what the real numbers might be. The one thing that can be certain, is that the happy buyers, meaning the precious few that ever actually end up with a deed, are the very rare exceptions proving the rule that this is a gray, desperate part of the housing market founded on predatory practices and discrimination.

I’m always surprised this part of the housing market is not either strictly regulated or banned. I first encountered such “contract for deed” purchases in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1972 as ACORN mounted its “Save the City” organizing drives neighborhood by neighborhood in the central and eastern parts of the city. Six years before the passage of the Community Reinvestment Act banning lending discrimination based on race among other reasons, it was very difficult for many African-Americans to get mortgage financing historically, and you can find out more from Metropolitan Mortgage Co regarding this topic. On the doors we would regularly run into people involved in “contract for deed” or “rent to purchase” agreements with landlords or absentee owners because of their inability to get bank loans or FHA guarantees in previous years to acquire the home outright. We heard one story after another from older members about either having lost houses or almost lost houses because of some snafu or crisis when their payment was a day late or lost in the mail or whatever. Some were just plain robbed, having paid in cash with no recourse in courts or often even a paper trail. How do you prove the existence of a paternal handshake over a piece of real estate you’ve lived in for 15 or 20 years? We tried to get such sales banned in Little Rock, despite the fact that the real estate industry was the most powerful force in the city.

Many states allow “contract for deed” transactions though they are lightly regulated with almost nonexistent oversight by strapped city housing departments. The Times recently did a piece that highlighted a Dallas-based slumlord named Charles Vose, III, who owns Harbour Porfolio Advisers and has been one of the largest purchases of distressed properties from the government. They reported that,

…Harbour has bought more than 6,700 single-family homes in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania and a handful of other states since 2010 — most of them from Fannie Mae, according to the mortgage finance firm and the foreclosure research firm RealtyTrac.

One tale followed another including onerous requirements to repair a home in 4-months or default on the contract purchase, more than 100 times that the company has sued in bankruptcy court, hiring a captive firm to appraise the houses condition sometimes indicating no repairs being needed, all in the service of swindling a lower income family wanting to realize their dream of home ownership but not having the credit under current standards to enter the standard housing mortgage market. We could say that there “ought to be a law,” but in fact there seem to be plenty of laws, including housing code requirements, but nothing stout enough to stop the predatory cycle where a Vose lives in a Dallas mansion by stealing the homes of poor, usually minority families, and everyone else tries to turn a blind eye and shift the problem houses off of their books and onto someone else’s until the exploitative music stops.

The government at all levels shouldn’t allow it and should do the right thing upstream by funding rehab or demolition, rather than allowing the swindlers to operate downstream, hurting even more families and damaging communities, already beleaguered and often blighted, even more so.

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