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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Shadow Housing Inventory: Walked Away, but Lender Hasn't Foreclosed

by Calculated Risk on 6/24/2009 12:30:00 PM

From the WaPo: Not Paying the Mortgage, Yet Stuck With the Keys (ht Bob_in_MA)

A growing number of American homeowners are falling into financial limbo: They're badly behind on payments, but their banks have not yet foreclosed.

The backlog of seriously delinquent mortgages, which so far affects about 1 million borrowers, is a shadow over hopes for a rebound in the nation's housing markets. It masks the full extent of the foreclosure crisis ...

"I have even begged them for a foreclosure," delinquent mortgage-holder Charlotte Jensen said. When she realized she couldn't save her Glen Allen home last year, she filed for bankruptcy, packed up her family and moved out. Nearly a year later, Bank of America has yet to take back the home.
Some of the backlog reflects the inability of lenders to keep up with the swelling rolls of delinquent properties.

... some of the backlog also reflects an intentional slowdown in the pace of foreclosures as government and industry step up efforts to help borrowers who want to save their homes. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-run mortgage financing companies, put a temporary moratorium on foreclosures late last year and many of the country's largest lenders followed suit.
"What we're seeing more and more right now are cases of a lender threatening foreclosure and the foreclosure sale is canceled at the last minute," said Jeanne Hovenden, a Richmond bankruptcy attorney, who handled Jensen's case. "It's more like the lenders don't want to own any more real estate and are using foreclosures as a pressure tactic."
Jensen visits her home weekly to ensure it hasn't been vandalized or taken over by squatters. She pays landscapers to keep the lawn mowed.
For the Jensens, the delay has extended a painful period. "There was a sense of responsibility that until someone says we no longer own that property, we wanted to make sure it's handed off correctly," Jensen said. "We could have walked away like everyone else and said, 'We don't care.' But we loved our neighbors and our neighborhood. We hold ourselves responsible."
There is much more in the article.