Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Foreclosure Hell

By Robert Gammon
Wed, Apr 8, 2009 at 6:38 AM

As bad as the foreclosure crisis is — it may be worse than we realize. That's because banks are apparently foreclosing on homes and then holding them off the market, according to an interesting piece in today's Chron. An analysis by veteran reporter Carolyn Said revealed that banks might be keeping up to one third of the foreclosed properties in the Bay Area under wraps — in a sort of shadow foreclosure world. The fear is that banks will suddenly flood the market with these cheap properties, sending down housing prices even faster than they've already declined. According to the report, Alameda County may have the second highest rate of shadow foreclosures in the Bay Area — 41 percent — behind only San Francisco at 50 percent.

But as compelling as the story is, we're not sure the analysis is correct. The Chron piece assumes that any foreclosure that hasn't been resold is in this "shadow" market. The story quotes industry types who say that the banks must be holding these properties off the market, because it's in their best interest not let foreclosure properties languish. But a recent New Yorker piece indicated a different conclusion. The reason there are so many unsold foreclosures out there may be because banks have priced the properties too high.

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