Presidents December Scorecard: A Bogey

February 3, 2011 (Chris Moore)
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The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury have jointly released the January edition of the Obama Administration’s Housing Scorecard and if we were playing a round of golf with the President, at the very least we’d have to say we shot a bogey.

Each month, the Housing Scorecard incorporates key housing market indicators and highlights the impact of the Administration’s housing recovery efforts, including assistance to homeowners through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). It’s kind of like the President’s own personal cheerleading section.

Highlights of the report included (with a little commentary added in red):

– New and existing home sales increased during the month, but still remained below levels seen in the first half of 2010. According to federal data, 27,400 new homes sold during December along with 440,000 existing homes. During the same period of 2009, almost 30,000 new homes and 453,000 existing homes sold. However, increased sales a year ago was attributed to the Homeowners Tax Credit, which economists pointed out at the time would only be stealing future sales, which proved to be right. And unfortunately for the year, as we reported here, sales are at a 47 year low.

– Home prices remain “unsettled” at this fragile stage of the recovery which we find unsettling that they would say “unsettled” as home prices have dropped for the last four months. That would appear to be a trend to us. Many experts believe that prices will continue to fall as the robo-signing mess clears up and more foreclosures come to the market. As we reported last week, nearly half the homes sold in December were distressed properties.

– Record low mortgage rates continue to keep home affordability at record high levels. The scorecard reported the rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage rate at 4.74 percent, down from 4.99 percent a year earlier. We’re sure many people would love to take advantage of this opportunity…if they only had jobs.

– As lenders review internal procedures related to foreclosure processing, many foreclosure actions have been delayed leading to a lower level of foreclosure activity in December than in prior months. The decline is likely to be temporary as lenders eventually revise and resubmit foreclosure paperwork in the coming months. Because of the slowdown and delay in foreclosure actions, industry experts expect 2011 to top 2010’s record year in foreclosures.

– Homeowners in HAMP permanent modifications continue to perform well over time, with re-default rates lower than industry norms. December data for the Making Home Affordable Program (MHA) shows that after 12 months, nearly 85 percent of homeowners remain in a permanent modification. Homeowners in HAMP permanent modifications have already reduced their mortgage obligation by more than $4.5 billion to date. Although January’s data now shows that over 20 percent of HAMP modifications are 60 days or more behind on their payments.

– More than 4.1 million modification arrangements were started between April 2009 and the end of November 2010 — more than double the number of foreclosure completions during that time. These included more than 1.4 million trial Home Affordable Modification Program starts, more than 650,000 Federal Housing Administration loss-mitigation and early-delinquency interventions, and more than 2 million proprietary modifications under Hope Now. They failed to mention that well over 700,000 borrowers have fallen out of the HAMP trial program.

“Over the last 20 months, the Obama Administration has confronted the nation’s housing crisis with an unprecedented effort to promote stability in the market—keeping millions of families in their homes and helping millions more to save money by refinancing. But the data clearly show that the market remains extremely fragile,” said HUD Assistant Secretary Raphael Bostic. “We know that many responsible homeowners are still fighting to make ends meet. That’s why we’re committed to continuing to provide help to homeowners by implementing the broad range of programs the Obama Administration has put in place.”

“Before the launch of the Administration’s programs, little was done to offer meaningful assistance to homeowners struggling to deal with the worst housing crisis in generations. The data released today demonstrates that the Administration’s programs are reaching middle income homeowners and providing them with real payment relief,” said acting Treasury Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability Tim Massad. “While we cannot prevent every foreclosure, it is important to remember that these programs have helped to create more options for affordable and sustainable assistance than have ever been available before.”

Why don’t you just say it??? It’s Bush’s fault.

Okay, okay, I know I played the devils advocate today, and we need a good “Rah Rah” from time to time, but as I mentioned in my previous article here, it’s all really just about jobs.

Tags: December scorecard, obama, HUD, treasury department, housing, mortgage rates, foreclosures, housing prices, HAMP, FHA, mortgage modifications