Rich Americans Default on Luxury Homes as Losses Emulate Subprime Victims

Discussion in 'Economics' started by ByLoSellHi, May 7, 2009.

  1. Rich Americans Default on Luxury Homes as Losses Emulate Subprime Victims

    By Bob Ivry and Dan Levy


    May 6 (Bloomberg) --
    Chuck Dayton put down a quarter of the $950,000 purchase price when he bought his house in Newport Beach, California, in 2004. He was making $500,000 a year with his drywall company and he expected home values to keep rising.

    Then the mortgage market collapsed, new construction stopped and builders no longer needed his services. Dayton, 43, went into default four months ago because he couldn’t afford payments on the three-bedroom home, located within a block of the Pacific Ocean. He hopes his lender will agree to sell the seven-year-old house for less than he owes to avoid a foreclosure.

    “It’s just wait and see right now,” Dayton said.

    Borrowers such as Dayton, whose 2004 compensation was almost 10 times the median U.S. household income, are becoming trapped by the same issue facing the poorest subprime homeowners: falling home prices erase equity and make it impossible to sell or refinance without losing money.

    The number of U.S. homes valued at more than $729,750, the jumbo-loan limit in the most affluent areas, entering the foreclosure process jumped 127 percent during the first 10 weeks of this year from the same period of 2008, data compiled by RealtyTrac Inc. of Irvine, California, show. The rate rose 72 percent for homes valued at less than $417,000 and 78 percent for all homes, RealtyTrac said.

    ‘Trickle Up’

    “It’s the trickle-up effect,” said David Adamo, chief executive officer of Luxury Mortgage Corp., a home-loan bank in Stamford, Connecticut. “Just like homeowners in smaller homes, these homeowners anticipated being able to refinance mortgages to continue making payments and at a future date sell for a gain and put it toward their next home. That strategy backfired when the market for jumbo mortgages dried up.”

    Jumbo loans are larger than what government-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will buy or guarantee, currently $417,000 in most areas. Jumbo lending slowed in the fourth quarter to $11 billion, or 4 percent of the mortgage market, the lowest quarterly figure since Inside Mortgage Finance, a Bethesda, Maryland-based trade publication, started tracking the data in 1990.

    Subprime loans were made available to borrowers who never proved they could make monthly payments on time. The loans accounted for more than 20 percent of the U.S. mortgage market in 2005, up from less than 8 percent in 2003, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.

    Subprime Implosion

    Defaults by subprime borrowers began rising in 2007. Since then, financial institutions that had bet on earning cash flow from home loans packaged into securities have announced credit- market losses and writedowns of almost $1.4 trillion, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

    Among all homeowners, 21.8 percent were underwater in the first quarter, Seattle-based real estate data service said in a report today. At the end of the fourth quarter, 17.6 percent of homeowners owed more than their original mortgage, while 14.3 percent had negative equity three months earlier.

    Property values dropped 14 percent from a year earlier in the first quarter, reducing the median value of all U.S. single- family homes, condominiums and cooperatives to $182,378, Zillow said. The gain in underwater homeowners will lead to more bank repossessions, the company said.

    The U.S. government has lent banks $392 billion to stem the losses through its Troubled Asset Relief Program. Another $12.4 trillion was spent, lent or guaranteed by the government and the Federal Reserve to stop the longest recession since the 1930s.

    Loan Losses

    About $500 billion of prime-jumbo mortgages are bundled into bonds, according to Memphis, Tennessee-based FTN Financial. In February, JPMorgan Chase & Co. analysts John Sim and Abhishek Mistry in New York almost doubled their projections for losses on those mortgages to as much as 10 percent because of increasing defaults.

    Foreclosures have come to the Hamptons, the beach towns about 100 miles east of New York City on Long Island, where homeowners have included Blackstone Group LP Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman, hedge fund manager John Paulson and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

    Almost 90 borrowers entered the foreclosure process in the towns of East Hampton and Southampton in the first 10 weeks of 2009. That compared with 109 in the same period last year and 73 in the first 10 weeks of 2007, according to the Real Estate Report in West Islip, New York.

    Hamptons Sales Fall

    Home sales in the Hamptons fell 67 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the most since records were first kept in 1982, according to Town & Country Real Estate of the East End LLC. The median sale price slid 28 percent from a year earlier.

    Rule changes spurred by rising defaults now require lenders to work with delinquent New York homeowners before beginning the foreclosure process, said Pat Ammirati, president of the Real Estate Report.

    “There was this unrealistic view that the crazy financing was limited to subprime when of course it was across the board,” said Andrew Laperriere, Washington-based managing director at research firm International Strategy & Investment Group. “A lot of jumbo mortgages were nothing down with high debt-to-income ratios.”

    Short Sale?

    Dayton said he financed the purchase of his home, 40 miles south of Los Angeles in Orange County, with a payment-option adjustable-rate mortgage now serviced by JPMorgan’s Washington Mutual. The option allowed him to pay less each month than the interest on the loan, with any unpaid amount added to his debt.

    Dayton refinanced in February 2007 with a $1 million loan from Washington Mutual, and used some of the proceeds for business expenses, said Robin Milonakis, his agent at Altera Real Estate in Dana Point, California. He also took out two private mortgages and now has a balance of $106,000 on those loans, she said.

    Dayton went into default on Jan. 29 and owes $46,584 in delinquent payments and penalties, according to First American CoreLogic, a Santa Ana, California-based mortgage data firm. Dayton said he’s found a buyer willing to pay $950,000.

    The foreclosure process typically takes about a year. That means jumbo-loan defaults, which are climbing at the fastest pace in at least 15 years, will increase over the next year, according to LPS Applied Analytics in Jacksonville, Florida.

    Goodbye Jumbo

    President Barack Obama’s Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan has no provision to help jumbo mortgage borrowers. The plan focuses on shoring up home loans eligible to be bought by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also called conforming loans.

    “The government has thumbed their noses at people who have jumbo mortgages,” said Steve Habetz, president of Threshold Mortgage Co. in Westport, Connecticut.

    The share of U.S. homes in the foreclosure process that are valued at more than $729,750 increased to 2.83 percent this year through March 10 from 2.21 percent in the same 10 weeks of 2008, according to RealtyTrac. In the same 10-week period, the share of homes valued at $417,000 or less in foreclosure fell to 87 percent from 89.7 percent in 2008, RealtyTrac said.

    Price Slump

    California is hardest hit by luxury-home foreclosures. More than 1,500 borrowers with properties in the state that once sold for more than $1 million defaulted on their mortgages in February, said Mark Hanson, managing director of the Field Check Group, a real estate company in Palo Alto, California.

    About 3 percent, or 254,745, of the state’s 8.5 million houses are assessed for more than $1 million by county assessors, according to San Diego-based MDA DataQuick, a real estate monitoring company.

    While sales for all homes in the state increased 2.5 percent last year from 2007, sales of homes valued at more than $1 million declined 43 percent to the lowest since 2003, MDA DataQuick reported. Part of the reason is falling prices as California’s median home price dropped 41 percent in February to $247,590, according to the state’s Association of Realtors.

    Another explanation may be stricter lending guidelines, Hanson said.

    “You have to have income of $250,000, a 20 percent down payment and near perfect credit to buy a $1 million home now, so the number of buyers isn’t what it was,” Hanson said. “There just aren’t enough buyers to sop up supply. We’re seeing the collapse of the high-end market.”

    ‘What to Do’

    Values have taken longer to decline in more affluent areas, taking some homeowners by surprise, said Philip Tirone, president of Los Angeles-based Mortgage Equity Group Inc.

    “People are coming to me to do a refinance or buy another property, and what they thought they had in the equity of the home they don’t have and they don’t know what to do,” Tirone said.

    Delinquencies are caused by people who owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth, said James McLauchlen, a broker and appraiser in Southampton, New York, for James R. McLauchlen Real Estate Inc. and Hamptons Appraisal Service Corp.

    “They throw their hands up and say I’m not going to kill myself trying to take care of this debt,” McLauchlen said. “Some folks work hard to make payments. Others just can’t pay. They offer a deed in lieu of foreclosure and off they go.”

    Dayton said he doesn’t know when he’ll restart his drywall business, which he shut down in November for lack of work.

    “This market is not even close to bottoming out, in my opinion,” Dayton said. “It continues to drop.”
  2. NYC212


    good read thanks

    the homes around the 500k will still fall as ppl cannot get jumbo loans and the rates are so bad too.

    need to get that loan balance under 417k to get a decent rate