Housing Policy

Housing Bust Unknown Unknowns


In addition to these short-term loan modifications, we want to see if we can get longer-term loan modifications. And in some cases, principal reduction, which will be good for the person who owns the home, but it'll also be good for the banks over the long term.

One thing that strikes me and may strike you about the 2011 real estate market is how little has changed, from a technical standpoint, since 1999. You get slightly better views of the property at agency websites, and you can cross-reference through Zillow. But the process of finding, haggling, getting financing, buying a property, and that moment after the settlement when each signatory gets to punch the broker in the face one time (process may vary in your state), seems to me no smoother than it's ever been. (I realize that right-thinking people now agree the process should be even less smooth than it has been in the past.) 

Because I despair of being well informed even at the local level, I don't have much hope for national statistics on real estate either. But Bill McBride, of the essential Calculated Risk blog, gives a nice summary of what could be better about real estate thinkology:

The NAR data for existing home sales and inventory is still suspect, the Census Bureau could change their methodology so new home sales matched up better with builder reports (change the timing of sales and handling of cancellations), there is no good data available for housing demolitions, the total housing stock numbers are almost useless for analyzing the excess supply, and there is no timely data for household formation. 

McBride says there's cause for hope in this National Mortgage News story about a little-known codicil in Dodd-Frank requiring some new data collection on housing: 

The data is supposed to drill down to the census tract level and include the number and percentage of loans that are delinquent by more than 30 days; those that are in the foreclosure process; and those that are underwater.

While I'm still for treating data as a plural, this sounds like a modest improvement, if only as competitive information to the OCC/OTS Mortgage Metrics Reports

NEXT: New York Times to Orchestra Pits: Papers, Please!

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  1. While 1999 was more difficult than the bubble years, 2011 is more difficult than 1999 in many respects. Banks want more documentation than in 1999 of income and assets and other personal information. There are also more disclosure forms including truth in lending and other CYA pieces of paper that one must initial or sign. (I suspect the lead based paint form was already around in 1999 but there are more now)…. Also, as I am buying a house from a foreign national at the present time (we close in a little under 2 weeks) there’s this whole business of our having to sign some additional paperwork so she won’t have some 10% (or was it higher) of the proceeds held for some period of time. I’m pretty sure that is a post terror policy

    And aside from the paperwork and evidence, the bank actually went line by line over the checking account statements we provided and flagged a number of largish transactions…. I don’t think they every really did that kind of due diligence in the past.

    1. I agree, it’s much more difficult now. By coincidence, I’m selling/buying houses this month and the last time I did it was 1999. There’s no comparison on the amount of paperwork and documentation.

      My credit scores range from the low 790’s to the mid 810’s and I’m working through the same mortgage firm I used to refinance a couple of years back. I’ve been at the same job for 12 years and in the same industry for 20. I haven’t even changed banks or insurance companies in 12 years. There’s no mystery about me and I should be an ideal mortgage customer.

      Even so, I feel like I’m on trial every time I talk to the mortgage company and they ask for “just one more thing”.

  2. While I’m still for treating data as a plural

    Doesn’t that make the heart of your inner nerd just pitter patter?

    1. My outer nerd says there is an implicit word “set” missing from that sentence that makes it singular.

      “The data set is..”


      “The set of data is …”

      As a convenience we leave out the generic noun “set” and just talk of it’s type – data.

      That’s why we speak of data elements. They are elements of the set.

      There, you can let your inner pedant rest easy now. Data is a group of elements treated as a whole. Singular is appropriate. Plural is appropriate too, depending on your taste (you can pretend you are talking about the elements of the list rather than the list as a whole).

      1. I treat data like hair.

        1. Shampoo and condition daily?

      2. Not quite. The people who understand data – computer professionals, programmers, etc. understand it as you would understand water or milk. You measure it not in gallons but in kilobytes or gigabytes. You send it via pipes that have a certain capacity measured not in gallons per minute but in megabits per second. It flows, it gets processed like water is processed in a purification plant. We look at it as a fluid, and it’s therefore, following standard English usage, singular.

  3. In spite of the hiring boom going on these days in Silicon Valley, the Bay Area housing market is still in ugly shape.

  4. More shitty writing from Tim I see.

  5. I’m sure that government housing data will work out just as well as the stimulus tracking data.

  6. You do know that Zillow’s “Zestimate” is a load of shit, right? They’ve been given 100 million dollars and they raise revenue…how?

    1. This.

      As an appraiser myself, there is nothing that irks me more than when a borrower/homeowner/scum-of-the-Earthmortgage broker produces nothing other than a Zillow print out as evidence that his house is worth 15-25% more than the model match that sold three doors down a month and a half ago.

      1. No picking on Zillow! They say my white elephant property in Virginia increased 15 percent in value since last year, so they are obviously courageous truth tellers.

        1. my white elephant property in Virginia increased 15 percent in value since last year

          Is it close to DC?

          It might actually be true.

          DC property values the some of the most stable in the nation.
          Of course the reason why they are so stable is because under Bush and Obama government has been a growth industry.

          1. DC’s funny. Back in the ’90s, under Bush I and Bubba, the housing market was actually pretty lousy. Dude we bought our (Rockville, MD) townhouse from in ’99 was selling it to us for $20k less than he’d paid in ’91.

            Government spending didn’t shrink during that span, but as noted it didn’t grow much, so folks moved elsewhere.

            It was only after Bush II and the federal spigot going bukkake that our housing prices caught up with the national frenzy. (Also, in our area, a shitload of Asians started going to the two closest elementary schools, boosting test scores, and helping us avoid Mr. Cavanaugh’s fate.)

            Right now, in my burb, I’m hearing that the Continuing Resolutions are already having an impact–IT contractors in particular are getting laid off. There’s early retirement on the radio, and recently during the week I drove the Beltway from Rockville to Potomac Mills at the end of rush hour, a trip that used to be 2 hrs., probably, and made it in around 35-40 minutes each way.

            If they actually really do cut spending here, I expect PG County’ll turn into a Dust Bowl.

            /Refied once or twice, but never to cash out, and all my money’s in porn/Bakken oil, so I don’t obsess on real estate. Given that the Times is capitulating, I almost think the bottom’s in, so may be looking for a beach place this fall, but nothing crazy, just something above 100th+ St. in OC, where unlike Delaware our dog can get sandy if she wants.

  7. The mortgage closing process will NEVER be streamlined. Ever.

    The banks took a baby step towards streamlining the recordation process with MERS and now every judge out there looking for a way to stick it to those evil mortgage companies jumps up and down in his black robe with nothing on underneath shouting “TEH FRAUD!”

    Or law clerks who print out preformatted documents and never write a single word sign those documents without reading them all the way through, and those same judges (and Congressmen) jump up and down and shout “TEH FRAUD!!”

    The title process and mortgage process was conceived in a quill-and-ink age and anything people try to do to be even a little bit more efficient in document processing and handling will eventually be shot down as fraudulent or illegal because everything includes the words “I attest” or some variant of that at some point in the process.

    1. I won’t argue that the title and mortgage process dates way back, and could probably stand some updating. Although I can’t say I mind some pretty stringent documentation and transfer processes around the biggest transaction 99% of the population will ever undertake.

      But I also don’t think there’s any doubt that MERS royally screwed the pooch and managed to fuck up the transfer of a lot of mortgages, all in the service of some very dubious ends.

      1. Agreed. I hope we don’t get some nationwide “solution” to the MERS problem that allows loan servicers to skate on documentation. I just have a sense that at some point we’re going to get a law ghostwritten by the MBA that will magically make the missing note issue disappear. (It’s just common sense, after all!) Fuck that. If you give away all that money without getting enough paperwork to convince a judge you have a right to collect, you deserve to be tormented by litigious deadbeats.

      2. I won’t argue that the title and mortgage process dates way back, and could probably stand some updating.

        ummm I don’t know about the mortgage process. But please stay the fuck away from the title process. We already have urban planners trying to delete lots we don’t need to give them the power to actually pull this shit off.

        My own problems can attest to this:

        To whom it may concern,

        I am vexed by Chelan County’s attempt to shade the legality of lots I own up Union Valley Road. Furthermore Chelan County’s refusal to accept the legality of my lots has delayed the sale of my lots because inaccurate claims by the County have spooked the buyers and in the buyers words “made the lots worthless”

        I am further vexed because the lots have been recognized as legal lots by at least four separate departments of the County and in at least three of those departments have recognized my property’s legality for decades. The lots have been recognized by the Assessor as the Assessor maps show the lots. The Auditor has recognized multiple sales of the lots and a survey of the lots (AFN 2269900). The Treasurer has accepted property tax payments and Real Estate Excise Tax on the lots and the GIS department has further shown the lots on the maps they produce for the County. It is only one individual in the Chelan County Community Development department who conducted an incomplete and spurious research on the lots who has chosen to question the legal record of my property. It should also be noted that Transnation has provided insurance of the lots when I purchased them and North Meridian has provided insurance to the pending sale of my property.

        It is because of the problems and the delay of sale created by one individual in one department that I ask the County to quickly expedite the formal legal recognition of my lots. I further ask that the County wave any application and recording fees necessary to start and finalize the process. I have already payed enough for the delays the County has caused me. I should not have to pay the County to correct mistakes it has made.

        I hope the County will simply recognize the legality of my property but in emails I have read it has been asked by the County that a Certificate of Exemption be applied for. Whatever method the County wishes to use to recognize my lots is up to the County. I have filled out an application for a Certificate of Exemption.

        The following is a narrative to go along with my application to explain how my lots are legal lots of record.

        Narrative of the legality of my lots:

        My two lots are a 20 acre piece and 10 acre piece. The 10 acre piece is to the north of and adjacent to the 20 acre piece.

        The 20 acre piece was created July 17th 1970 by the sale of the property from Mable Yager to Bud LaMont through an instrument recorded on July 29th 1970 with an AFN of 702145.

        It should be noted that Chelan County Treasurer T.E. McKain happily accepted $39.95 in Real Estate Excise Tax from that sale, making no complaint as to the legality of the lot, and that Transnation Title Insurance Co insured the title of the property.

        The 10 acre lot was created as a remnant on January 21rst 1975 by sale of the 10 acre lot to the north of and adjacent to my 10 acre lot from Mable Yager to Craig D Hanks through an instrument recorded on January 29th 1975 with an AFN of 746470.

        To put in plain English; Mable Yager owned a 20 acre parcel. She then sold the northern 10 acres of her 20 acre piece to Craid D Hanks. This transaction created two lots. One lot which went to Mr Hanks and the other lot was retained by Mrs Yager as a 10 acre remnant. It is this remnant which I later purchased and now own.

        Again I note that the Chelan County Treasurer happily accepted $29.90 in Real Estate Excise Tax from that sale in 1975, making no complaint as to the legality of the lot, and that Transnation Title Co insured the title of the property.

        Both of these transactions occurred well before October 17th, 2000 in accordance with CCC 12.14.050(6).

        Finally I would like to point out that no one has benefited from the actions of one individual in one department of the County and many have been harmed. I have been harmed by the delay of sale it has caused, the buyer has been harmed by the delay of sale, North Meridian title has been harmed for the extra work load it has endured, the County has been harmed as the delay of sale has prevented excise and property taxes from being paid. The buyer is pursuing a building permit so the public has been harmed by the stoppage of economic activity.

        All this harm and I see no benefit to anyone. If this episode demonstrates anything it is that the philosophy of stringent zoning land use policy and regulations is a complete and utter failure.

        The County has decided that any lot sized below its zoning regulations is suspect and presumed illegal. The result of this recent policy shift has been harm to land sellers, harm to land buyers harm to land owners harm to the County coffers and harm to the community all on the pretext that the County is protecting some phantom unquantifiable ideal of collective rural land use expectations.

        This needs to stop.


        – The certificate of exemption application asks for deeds. This is not the requirement of CCC 12.14.050(6). The blank application sheet posted on the County’s web site needs to be corrected so that it reflects the law.
        – Item 9 of the application asks for easements. I will not be providing those easements as Lilith has already accepted that the lots have legal access in an email which I will attach.
        – I formally ask the County to place a complaint to be filed in the records of Lilith Yanagimachi for incompetence. It is due to her actions, inaccurate claims and spurious research that the legality of my lots has been called into question, and it is a consequence of her actions that myself, the buyer, the title company, the County, and the community have been harmed.
        – The time frames on the application of 28 days for written determination of completeness and 60 days for approval are incorrect and not those stated in CCC 12.14.020
        – In an email from Lilith Yanagimachi to title company agent Tina Carrol (forwarded copy attached), Lilith makes the claim that “the 10 acre was done as part of an estate division”. I have no knowledge of whether or not Bud LaMont or Craig D Hanks are of any relation to Mable Yager or whether they were mentioned in her will. Regardless the transaction that transferred the property to them gives no indication that they were and the fact that they payed Real Estate Excise Tax implies that they were not. Nothing about these two transactions (AFN 702145 and AFN 746470) gives the appearance that they were part of an estate division or that they follow laws of decent.
        – The two lots in question are not on Evergreen Camp Road but at the end of George Garton Rd. County GIS maps indicate that the two roads connect but I have driven from both ends and if such a road ever did connect it has long since become overgrown, eroded and impassible. The attached vacinity map gives an oproximation of the road’s location as well as the attached survey which gives the internal configuration.
        – I attempted to send this email yesterday but it was sent back due to the large size of the two PDF attachments. I have uploaded the PDFs to the web and provided links listed below:

        Link to Certificate of Exemption application, recorded documents and other supporting materials (8MB PDF)
        Link to Vicinity Map (500K PDF)

        Joshua Corning

  8. The problem with the housing market are all the scam artists involved (not that everyone in these professions are scam artists, except maybe the last one): real estate agents, mortgage brokers, appraisers, sellers, buyers, contractors, and governments.

    1. Make that the problem is. Danged fingers.

  9. Is now the time I disclose I’m a Realtor?

    *[silently waits a gloved backhand from a stern monocled face]*

    1. Looter!

  10. Please, please don’t tell us you have your headshot on your business card.

    1. A Glamour Shot?

      1. I used to. I now go full frontal.

  11. The biggest rip-off seems like the title search. Why should it cost over a thousand dollars? Couldn’t there just be one official database with all claim, liens, sales records, etc? Shouldn’t it be like $25 to verify?

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