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Foreclosure mills run rampant, justice may be imminent

If you follow the money at several major foreclosure mill firms, the abuses being discovered at various levels are astounding. One state is investigating, will others follow?

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Injustices at foreclosure mills

When homeowners are faced with the possibility of losing their homes, many will do whatever it takes in order to keep them, including exploring the option of modifying the mortgage to terms that they can afford. In fact, many states urge homeowners and the law firms that represent the mortgage to discuss the possibility of a modification before immediately jumping to foreclosure because, in many cases, it is more profitable for the investor to keep the mortgage loan live than it is to terminate it.

But the state of Colorado has recently received reports that many law firms, often referred to as foreclosure mills, are foregoing the legal steps needed to spur mortgage modification discussions in order to increase time to foreclosure.

Following the money trail

Prospect. org reports that this is because their compensation is negatively affected if a loan is modified rather than foreclosed, and that Colorado state Attorney General John Suthers is taking a closer look at the practices of foreclosure mills as there are several reports of falsifying documents, extraneous billing and destruction of evidence tied to the loan modification process, and money seems to be the key driver.

“The law firm is interfering with my client’s right to a modification,” said Blair Drazic, a Colorado attorney representing a similar mortgage modification case. “There’s so much money involved, it’s like the three monkeys—see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

It’s not just in Colorado

The Florida, Nevada and New York courts have found that several firms are utilizing technology to auto-sign and falsify documents rather than undergoing standard legal processes. The state of New York also previously required all mortgages at risk of foreclosure go through a settlement conference first in order for the home owner and investor to ascertain if a loan modification was a viable option; in order to set these conferences in motion, firms needed to file a “request for relief” but companies like the Steven J. Baum Law Firm stopped filing the requests, ultimately removing loan modification as an option altogether.

There are also reports of firms collaborating with vendors to pad prices for things like posting legal notices to the doors of foreclosed properties – for example, it typically costs $25 to post a notice but the firm would charge 12 times that amount which the homeowner would then be responsible for.

Colorado could set the precedent

At a time when the housing market is pushing to make a comeback, it makes sense for some home owners to exhaust all resources on keeping a mortgage on a home that has retained or exceeded a substantial amount of its value. The state of Colorado will continue its investigation into foreclosure mills conducting practices that bar homeowners from exploring mortgage modification options in order to bring in more profits as a business, and it may become the predecessor of more court cases to follow.

Destiny Bennett is a journalist who has earned double communications' degrees in Journalism and Public Relations, as well as a certification in Business from The University of Texas at Austin. She has written stories for AustinWoman Magazine as well as various University of Texas publications and enjoys the art of telling a story. Her interests include finance, technology, social media...and watching HGTV religiously.

Austin

Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?

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Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.

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aging housing inventory

The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.

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Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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