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Are Modification Programs Actually Working?

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One of the greatest threats to a housing recovery is the months’ supply of housing inventory available for sale. A normal market would have between 5-6 months inventory. We currently have 8.9 months of inventory and most experts believe that number will increase rather dramatically when the National Association of Realtors’ August Existing Housing Report is released today. The supply of inventory is made up of two categories of properties: non-distressed and distressed (short sales and foreclosures).

Part of the administration’s stimulus package was aimed at curtailing the flow of distressed properties coming to the market therefore easing the downward pressure on home prices.

The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) is the administration’s hope for troubled homeowners trying to avoid foreclosure by modifying their current mortgage payments. The original press release said the program was:

“…aimed at helping 3 to 4 million at-risk homeowners – both those who are in default and those who are at imminent risk of default – by reducing monthly payments to sustainable levels.”

The goal was to help prevent 3-4 million distressed properties from coming to the market.

How close to goal is the program?

The administration released the August Housing Scorecard yesterday. The report attempts to convey the successes of the administration’s policies in stabilizing the housing market. The report shows that they have completed only 434,700 permanent modifications to date. The administration also just announced that of those permanent modifications, 19.6% will re-default within 9 months. That leaves over 3 million properties that will probably end up as distressed sales.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, probably said it best:

“The government program as currently structured is petering out. It is taking in fewer homeowners, more are dropping out and fewer people are ending up in permanent modifications.”

What does this mean?

There will be more and more distressed properties coming to market. Even the Housing Scorecard addresses this issue both in print and with a graph:

“Foreclosure completions also inched upward as the volume of serious delinquencies continues to work through the pipeline.”

Though the numbers of foreclosure notices are stabilizing, the numbers of repossessions are still on the rise.

Bottom Line:

The modification program has not been the answer the administration had hoped it would be. There will continue to be downward pressure on home prices as the inventory of distressed properties continues to mount.


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