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Where is the lowest foreclosure rate in the nation?

WASHINGTON — The number of mortgaged homeowners facing foreclosure is declining nationwide, and in the Washington, D.C. metro as well, but two metro areas stand out for where they rank for foreclosures.

The lowest foreclosure rate in the nation in November also is one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation: San Francisco.

CoreLogic Inc. says the foreclosure rate in the San Francisco-Redwood City metro in November was negligible; just 0.15 percent of homeowners with mortgages there were in some stage of foreclosure.

Atlantic City has the worst foreclosure rate. As of November, CoreLogic says the foreclosure rate in the Atlantic City-Hammonton, New Jersey metro stood at 7.05 percent.

Nationwide, the foreclosure rate in November was 1.17 percent, down from 1.49 percent a year earlier.

In the D.C. metro area, the November foreclosure rate was just 1.04 percent, down from 1.25 percent in November 2014.

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Bidding opens on foreclosure sale of Clary Lake dam

WISCASSET — A handful of people watched Friday as an auctioneer opened bidding at the foreclosure and public sale of Clary Lake dam.

Fredrick Duncan, a Whitefield property owner, handed an envelope to Greg Dorr, a retired attorney serving as auctioneer. No one will know until next week whether Duncan’s bid or any other bid has been accepted.

Stan Whittier walks on the shore of Clary Lake in Jefferson in 2015 while his daughter, Jane Roy, stands on the family’s dock. It’s been nearly three years since property owners around Clary Lake in Jefferson and Whitefield appealed to the state to intervene about a low water level.Stan Whittier walks on the shore of Clary Lake in Jefferson in 2015 while his daughter, Jane Roy, stands on the family’s dock. It’s been nearly three years since property owners around Clary Lake in Jefferson and Whitefield appealed to the state to intervene about a low water level.


And no one is likely to know for some time whether the transaction will bring any clarity to a complex situation that has simmered for years at the northern end of Lincoln County, where the lake lies in Jefferson and Whitefield.

The single public bid belies the interest the dam has drawn from property owners along the lake, Whitefield town officials, state elected officials and a state regulatory agency.

In 2014, after two years of wrangling, the Maine Department of Environmental protection issued a water level order for Clary Lake to Pleasant Pond Mill LLC, the dam’s owner. Paul Kelley, manager of the Pleasant Pond Mill, in conjunction with AquaFortis Associates LLC and its manager, Richard Smith, has challenged DEP’s authority and has appealed the order in Lincoln County Superior Court.

The issue went to mediation, which ended without resolution in May 2015. In September 2015, two state lawmakers urged the DEP to take action on the water level order, and the DEP issued a notice of violation for failing to meet the water level order and failing to obtain DEP approval for a final water level management plan, among other things.

Lakefront property owners have been frustrated by the lack of resolution.

During January alone:

• Whitefield selectmen waived foreclosure on the dam for unpaid property taxes that date back to 2013. The total owed, with fees and interest, is $831.15. This is the second time in two years the selectmen have declined to foreclose. Dennis Merrill, chairman of the selectmen, said the board took that tack on the advice of the town’s attorney.

• Robert Rubin and Cheryl Ayer filed suit against Kelley, Smith, AquaFortis Associates LLC and Pleasant Pond Mill LLC in Lincoln County Superior Court, seeking damages for the harm they say has been done to their property by the lowered level of Clary Lake. AquaFortis Associates owns property near the dam.

• Negotiations between the Clary Lake Association, a group of lakefront property owners, and Kelley to acquire the dam ended when the association withdrew from settlement discussions; no accommodation could be reached.

• Arthur Enos, who had sold the dam to Pleasant Pond Mill a decade ago, assigned the mortgage to another entity, Medius L3C, a low-profit limited liability company. Enos declined to give any information about the transaction, and little is known about Medius LC3, which orchestrated the foreclosure and the sale. “Medius” means the middle or third finger.

• Pleasant Pond Mill has been dismissed as a party to its own appeal of the DEP’s water level order in Lincoln County Superior Court in an order issued Monday, as were all its independent claims. Pleasant Pond Mill had been dissolved administratively in August 2014, so it lost its standing in the case, the order says.

Reached by phone Friday, Kelley said his company believes that the question of ultimate ownership and control of the dam has always been somewhat unclear.

“It’s clear my company doesn’t own and has no control over the property, if the sale did take place,” he said.

After the auction Friday, Duncan, who has his own interests in the water level of Clary Lake, said he doesn’t want to own the dam. “I just want my land back,” he said.

His property is on the northwest corner of the lake, and 10 to 25 acres of it would be covered by water if the water level is raised.

“Last summer when the water level was so low, we rode our four-wheelers around and we weren’t sinking,” he said. “It was beautiful.”

If ownership of the dam changes hands, the DEP has notified Medius L3C that any subsequent owners of the dam are subject to the water level order and its special conditions, which includes DEP review and approval of any transfer.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected];

Twitter: @JLowellKJ;





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Don’t Let Your Brain Throw Away All of Your Money

The new book The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated has a very simple premise, and it’s explained right there in the title: Everyday investors shouldn’t mess around with “sophisticated” strategies that will only lose them money — even seemingly mainstream ones like stock-picking. Index funds and other safe, reliable options that mitigate risk are a much better bet.

The idea for the book originated back in 2013, during a conversation between Dr. Harold Pollack, a University of Chicago social-science professor (and frequent Science of Us source), and Helaine Olen, a New York Magazine contributor and the author of Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry. Pollack mentioned that all the personal-finance advice one really needed could fit on an index card, an internet commenter asked him to actually create that then-hypothetical card, and a very helpful personal-finance meme was born. Eventually, Olen and Pollack teamed up to turn it into a book, and The Index Card was released earlier this month.

Pollack’s day job is researching crime and public health — he’s co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab — and as a result he’s well versed in behavioral economics, the science of how humans make decisions and how we can get led astray by irrelevant information, psychological biases, and so on. Since these issues are vital to the question of why people get ripped off by shady financial instruments and why they have so much trouble making less exciting but more reliable decisions, I emailed him some questions about the intersection of his book and behavioral science.

The basic idea of your book is that financial investment actually isn’t that complicated — advice for how to do it properly can fit on an index card! So why are people so drawn to complicated, overblown promises in the first place?
I’m not sure why people are drawn to the complexity, but I have a few ideas. In part, we all hope that we will be the person who bought Apple stock 15 years ago. In part, the proper methodical approaches to saving and investing are really boring. It’s much more fun and diverting to time the market or to stock-pick. Many of us simply don’t have enough money. We hope against hope that by detecting the stock market’s secret logic or rolling the dice on some complex variable annuity, we might come out all right.

Unfortunately, the evidence is overwhelming that ordinary investors are incredibly bad at picking individual stocks. As you suggest, the promise of complex investment products is almost always wildly overblown. I’m particularly impressed and depressed by the research of Brad Barber and Terrance Odean in this area. Individual investors underperform the standard market indexes. We trade way too often. We sell our winning stocks while we are reluctant to sell our losers, the precise opposite of what a sensible tax accountant would recommend. Perhaps most depressing, the stocks we choose to buy appear to systematically underperform the stocks we choose to sell. This literature can get complicated. But it produces an admirably simple conclusion: Experts across the political spectrum hold surprising agreement that ordinary people should concentrate their savings in simple low-fee index funds and avoid most other investment products or actively managed funds.

Unfortunately, these simple and accurate messages are obscured by a huge market failure in the financial media. This market failure is so blindingly obvious that it generally escapes notice. The best advice is simply too boring and repetitive to make good TV. Who would regularly tune in to some cable finance show that said, “Buy index funds,” every week? What advertisers would pay for commercials on a program that tells viewers not to buy overpriced investment products they don’t understand? Financial TV has found much greater commercial success hawking far worse financial advice. These sins are most obviously true of gonzo financial TV shows aimed at day traders. They go back to the 1970s if not before, for example to Louis Rukeyser, whose unwise advice was made more toxic because it was delivered with such urbanity and panache to a huge weekly PBS audience.

Let’s get specific: What are a couple of well-known cognitive biases that specifically impact people’s investment decision-making for the worse?
Many cognitive and behavioral biases have been shown to matter for both individual investors and for large institutions whose incredible failures during the foreclosure crisis were scarcely less profound. My cross-campus colleague Richard Thaler has a wonderful intellectual memoir, Misbehaving, which lists many insights of modern behavioral economics that have become central to many disciplines and to public policy.

Status quo bias and inertia pose some of the most basic challenge. In my first job, I basically contributed nothing to my 401(k) because signing up required me to spend 45 minutes reading boring paperwork; $10,000 invested in the SP 500 back then would be worth something like $160,000 today. A host of studies, some of the best involving Brigitte Madrian and her colleagues, establish that automatic enrollment programs can dramatically increase employees’ retirement savings.

Such nudges are not the complete policy answer. In the case of retirement, we need larger benefits for people of modest incomes. But these nudges are helpful. We must present people with simpler “choice architectures” in retirement programs, in the design of health-insurance exchanges, that reduce complexity and clutter [and] that provide sensible defaults so that if people don’t pay attention or make any active choice, they will be assigned some reasonable choice.

Loss aversion and related notions matter, too. That helps to explain why investors don’t like to sell their losing stocks. A related concept, known by the fancy name of an “asymmetric loss function,” works in similar ways, but ironically also makes people more reckless once they fall behind after placing unlucky bets: If I leave a casino, I’m pretty much as happy coming out ahead $300 as I am winning $500. That’s pretty much in line with what standard economics predicts. If I lose, though, the results are usually different. I’m much sadder taking a loss of $500 than a loss of $300; similarly, losing $200 is far worse than breaking even. In short, we’re much more sensitive to losses than gains when we are running ahead of the game, but we tend to be less sensitive to the size of the loss when we fall behind. (Among other reasons, I might have to explain to my spouse where and why I lost that money.)

One consequence of this gobbledygook is that people who fall behind on risky financial bets are willing to be pretty reckless if there is some prospect that they can get back to zero. This is scary if one makes the obvious extrapolation to day traders who fall behind, or to securities traders who are having a rough day with other people’s money.

I take it you’re not personally immune from these biases and tendencies?
I can hardly avoid thinking about this stuff, since I fall prey to every every problematic heuristic, bias, and behavioral pathology documented in the behavioral economics literature. Every month, I waste hours standing in line at the airport because I’m too lazy to spend a few annoying hours on a single afternoon to get my TSA PreCheck. I had some stupid $10 monthly charge on my credit card for months because I didn’t want to spend 45 minutes on hold required to cancel some service whose password was long forgotten. 

I do try to manage my self-command failures. I spend more money when I use my credit card than when I pay cash. It’s just too easy to pull that poker chip from my pocket and waive it around to get goods and services. So I’ve made a real effort to spend cash instead. I also have to slow myself down and create habits and automatic defaults that help me make good decisions over time. Making saving automatic is essential for me. If setting money aside for my kids’ college required active decisions, I would procrastinate and not get it done. 

I also try to reduce my exposure to distracting but titillating or emotionally charged information. Once I internalized the lesson that ordinary investors should not buy or sell individual stocks, I tried to stop reading speculation about whether Apple has been too slow to make products for the cloud or what’s going on in the C-suite of Twitter. I haven’t checked my retirement savings during January’s stock-market tumble. Since I shouldn’t do anything with this information, why freak myself out with the salient particulars, when I know in broad outline that my wealth is probably down 10 percent but will come back up long before 2035, when I will really need it?

Let’s say you made a second index card not about investment advice but about psychological advice — the bare minimum people should know about how their own brains work when they’re faced with a tough financial decision. What would be on it?
I would start with a few things:

  • Distrust your instincts. Because you are human, your instincts and immediate impulses are often foolish, unconsciously biased, or misinformed.
  • Remember that you are more influenced by context and by peer pressures than you may realize. If nothing else, these frame your immediate responses, your most obvious available choices, and the information most readily available to you.
  • Be especially wary of chasing after shiny objects. In finance, as in so many other realms, these often disappoint.
  • Slow yourself down when you are deciding something important. Remember to use all the skills you have.
  • Seek out human help and conversation. Another pair of eyes is usually helpful. Even if all that person does is listen as you explain your smart or not-so-smart reasoning.
  • Don’t get cocky when a financial decision or investment goes right. Many decisions turn out well due to good luck. Certainly don’t assume you can do that again with the same result.
  • If a financial decision does go wrong, make sure to forgive yourself, too. Smart decisions may reflect bad luck. Even if the initial decision wasn’t so smart, your mistakes prove that you’re only human like the rest of us. 

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Judge orders compensation for elderly black victims of reverse mortgage scam

A Cook County judge has ordered a Chicago businessman behind a reverse mortgage scam targeting elderly African-Americans to compensate five of his victims and quit operating his business while his case winds through the courts.

Mark Diamond, who may have defrauded more than 100 homeowners in a mortgage and home repair scheme, was also ordered to pay a fine of $340,000 by Cook County Circuit Court Judge David B. Atkins last week.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sought the injunction against Diamond; testimony from the five people who will receive restitution was included in her office’s request for the injunction.

“This is a significant victory for people whose lives were destroyed by Mark Diamond,” Madigan said in an email.  “Diamond’s equity-stripping schemes financially devastated too many older African Americans and their families. This win will prevent him from conning people out of their life savings and homes in Illinois.”

Diamond could not be reached for comment.

Reverse mortgages are a tool for senior citizens to convert a portion of their home’s value into cash. The loan doesn’t have to be repaid until the person moves out of the house or dies. If family members want to keep the house, they have to pay off the debt.

Last January, The Chicago Reporter wrote about how Diamond has been accused in many federal cases of swindling elderly black homeowners on the city’s South and West sides and sued dozens of times in Circuit Court. Diamond would convince the homeowner to take out the mortgage by saying the money would pay for home repairs, maneuver to get most or all of the money from the transaction, and perform shoddy work, if anything was done at all, according to several of the lawsuits.

Mark Diamond arrives at a court appearance at Daley Plaza on April 1, 2015.

Photo by Grace Donnelly

Mark Diamond arrives at a court appearance at Daley Plaza on April 1, 2015.

Madigan said she filed  the injunction request in October 2014 after an uptick in the number of complaints against Diamond.

The goal of the injunction was to stop Diamond from conducting business while a 2009 case she filed on behalf of dozens of elderly black homeowners is adjudicated, she said. The 2009 lawsuit alleged that Diamond and other mortgage and home repair companies had stripped nearly $1.3 million in equity from the homeowners, many of whom lost their houses in foreclosure.

Last June, Atkins granted a preliminary injunction against Diamond.

New law targets reverse mortgage scams

In response to Diamond’s activities, Housing Action Illinois helped develop new consumer protection legislation, said Bob Palmer, policy director of the non-profit advocacy organization. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the bill into law last August.

“One purpose of the new consumer protection law for people considering reverse mortgages is to eliminate the high pressure sales pitches that Mark Diamond seemingly used to get seniors to take out loans even though he had a clear conflict of interest and [they] didn’t fully understand the implications of taking out a reverse mortgage,” Palmer said.

Under the new law, which took effect on Jan. 1, the Attorney General’s office has prepared an education document for consumers, Palmer said. Lenders and brokers have to provide this information to potential borrowers no later than when the senior requests an application for a reverse mortgage, he said.

Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16), who introduced the legislation, said she was “gratified” that Diamond will not be able to take advantage of other people, but added that he should be prosecuted and that his other victims should be compensated.

Diamond has yet to face criminal charges.

The FBI carried out a federal search warrant at Diamond’s office in the Logan Square neighborhood last March.

FBI Special Agent Garrett Croon declined to comment.

Louvenia Hood, board member of the Illinois Anti-Foreclosure Coalition, also said Diamond and those who worked with him should be prosecuted.

“I’m talking about attorneys, mortgage companies, title companies and banks,” said Hood, who has a relative that said she was swindled by Diamond.  “They had to be working with him to let him do what he did.”

Seeking compensation for more homeowners

Madigan spokeswoman Maura Possley said the next step in the legal case is to obtain restitution for the many other consumers affected by Diamond.

Like 89-year-old Lillie Williams, a homeowner in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

Diamond took close to $120,000 she said she received under a reverse mortgage contract; Williams was left with about $1,000. She said Diamond did some home repairs, but never gave her a bill for the work.

Atkins’ decision sparked mixed emotions in her.

“I’m glad about it, but I’m sad about it because I’m reminded of what happened,” she said.

A hearing to determine restitution for people who were not part of the request for an injunction will be held on Feb. 8, Possley said.

Clyde Ross, 92, was among the five people Atkins ordered Diamond to pay. Ross will receive $67,901.93, according to the decision.

Ross signed a contract with Diamond in 2012 to alter his bathroom to accommodate his son, a former Marine who was wounded in the line of duty and confined to a wheelchair, according to testimony.

The work on the bathroom left if more hazardous than before, and Diamond took all of the money from the reverse mortgage, said Ross, a major figure in the Contract Buyers’ League that fought for residents’ housing rights on Chicago’s West Side in the 1960s.

He’s skeptical that he will receive any money.

“Diamond’s not going to pay nothing back,” Ross said. “He doesn’t care about the judge. I was happy to hear about it, but how can I get the money?

“What the judge rules don’t mean nothing.”

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Improving neighborhoods with new foreclosure process

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Berrien County helping tax delinquent property owners – WNDU

With delinquent property taxes owed on thousands of properties in Berrien County, the treasurer is doing his part to help keep these homes from being foreclosed on.

NILES, Mich. — With delinquent property taxes owed on thousands of properties in Berrien County, the treasurer is doing his part to help keep these homes from being foreclosed on.

“Overall, throughout the county, the average is $2,000-$3,000,” Bret Witkowski, Berrien County Treasurer said. “I’ve had some as high as $40,000-$60,000 for businesses and as low as $150 to $200. But the average payment is $200-$300 a month.”

Witkowski is trying to get the thousands of property owners to pay their back taxes on a monthly payment system to avoid foreclosure. However, this option is for people who can pay the total within about a year.

“They need to be on payment plans to get them caught up,” Witkowski said. “We’re not going to sign them up for a 12 month plan and a year from now they’re still in the same problem and a year from then in the same problem. We want them into a plan that within seven to eight months they have one tax year caught up. Then we move on from there.”

Saturday, Witkowski took to the Niles Library to help people sign up for this option. It is an option which benefits both the county and the homeowner, allowing for the homeowner to have a roof over their head while the county gets what’s owed to them in back taxes.

“It’s our ultimate goal to not foreclose on properties but work with people and get them on payment plans,” Witkowski said. “I think a lot of times, the monthly payment plans are a lot easier to accept or digest than the large thousand dollar or $1,500 tax bill they’re seeing from the county.”

But there were too many people to talk to on Saturday, so Witkowski and the library worked together for a second night on Wednesday.

For 99-year-old Leon Taylor, this option will allow him to spend his 100th birthday in his home; the home he’s spent the last 60 years in, raising his children and seeing his grandchildren grow.

“When you get older, money isn’t as prevalent as when you’re working and everything,” Taylor said. “So sometimes, you can get behind and a lot of people I have seen have lost their property because of not paying back taxes. I don’t want to lose mine after all these years. I’d like to have some place to rest my head.”

Stories like Taylor’s aren’t rare in Berrien County. Witkowski says about 4,000 properties in the county are delinquent in taxes for two or more years, with about 1,400 of those at three years or more. And it’s those 1,400 homes that are at the greatest risk; with 65 days until they can be foreclosed on.

“Right now, we have 25 percent that could be foreclosed on in a qualified payment plan,” Witkowski said. “The ultimate goal in our world is to have zero foreclosures. Is that realistic? No because some people are going to choose to walk away, but those who have the ability to pay and those who are willing to work with us, we’re meeting them in the middle and saying, okay, we understand this is going to be a challenge for the one time payment but if you do this, we’ll get you caught up and ultimately if they stick with the plan, it really benefits them.”

And it’s becoming very successful. Witkowski says over the course of two days, about 70 people signed up for monthly payments to payback their back taxes. That’s about 15 percent of everyone in the county who is outstanding for the last two years.

“I was hoping for 15 to 20,” Witkowski said. “It’s more than I anticipated.”

“It gives you peace of mind,” Donna Franks, a Niles resident said. “Knowing I can sleep at night and pay all my other bills and make this payment and be able to make it the rest of the month until the next time. It’s a big relief.”

Since this was such a success in Niles, Witkowski hopes to expand the offer to other parts of Berrien County with Buchanan next in his sights. He is still in the planning phase of arranging a date for that event.

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RealtyTrac: 6.4 million US Homes Still Seriously Underwater

IRVINE, CAThere were 6.4 million US properties seriously underwater at the end of 2015, according to RealtyTrac’s Year-End 2015 U.S. Home Equity Underwater Report.

The housing data experts at RealtyTrac define seriously underwater as a combined loan amount secured by the property that is at least 25% higher than the propertys estimated market value, and say that represents 11.5% of all properties with a mortgage.

The report is based on publicly recorded mortgage and deed of trust data collected and licensed by RealtyTrac nationwide along with an industry standard automated valuation model (AVM) updated monthly on RealtyTracs entire database of more than 140 million US properties.

The year-end 2015 seriously underwater properties exact total (6,436,381) is down 481,292 from 6.9 million representing 12.7% of all properties with a mortgage at the end of the third quarter of 2015 and down 616,189 from 7.1 million (7,052,570) representing 12.7% of all properties with a mortgage at the end of 2014. The number of seriously underwater properties at the end of 2015 was half the 12.8 million (12,824,279) representing 28.6% of all properties with a mortgage in Q2 2012, the peak for seriously underwater properties.

Over the past three and a half years, the number of seriously underwater properties has been cut in half, but we continue to deal with a long tail of seriously underwater properties, and it will likely be another five years at least before most of those remaining underwater properties move into positive equity territory, said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. At the other end of the spectrum, the growing number of equity rich properties reflects a moribund move-up market and restrained leveraging of home equity by U.S. homeowners.

As of the end of 2015 there were 12.6 million (12,621,274) U.S. properties that were equity rich (at least 50% equity), representing 22.5% of all properties with a mortgage. The number of equity rich properties at the end of 2015 was up 2.1 million (2,145,015) from the 10.5 million (10,476,259) representing 19.2% of all properties with a mortgage at the end of Q3 2015 and up 1.4 million (1,371,628) from the 11.2 million (11,249,646) representing 20.3% of all properties with a mortgage at the end of 2014.

The equity in South Florida homeownership continues to grow with our rising prices, said Mike Pappas, CEO and president of Keyes Company, covering the South Florida market. We have tipped the scale now with more homes in strong equity positionsthan underwater homeowners. Distressed homeowners who are underwater still have optionsworking through a short sale usually receiving some cash for moving or utilizing the advantageous HARP refinancing vehicle.

Markets with the highest and lowest share of seriously underwater properties

Among metropolitan statistical areas with a population of at least 500,000, those with the highest share of seriously underwater properties as of the end of 2015 were Las Vegas, Nevada (27.7%), Lakeland, FL (24.4%), Cleveland (24.2%), Akron, OH (22.5%), and Orlando (22.2%).

Markets with the lowest share of properties seriously underwater as of the end of 2015 were San Jose, CA (1.8%), San Francisco (3.8%), Austin, TX (3.9%), Portland, OR (4.2%), and Boston, (4.2%).

Im very pleased to see the continued drop in Seattle homeowners who are seriously underwater, which is further indication that weve climbed out of the hole we found ourselves in following the crash of the market in 2008, said Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate, covering the Seattle market. As of the end of 2015, 6.3% of homes with a mortgage in the Seattle metro area were seriously underwater, down from 8.9% a year ago, according to the report. Seattle housing is benefitting greatly from positive job growth, favorable borrowing costs, and strong appreciation; therefore, I expect to see more and more homeowners return to positive equity in the coming year. My hope is that this leads to additional inventory which we desperately need in the Seattle housing market.

Markets with the highest and lowest share of equity rich properties

Among metropolitan statistical areas with a population of at least 500,000, those with the highest share of equity rich properties as of the end of 2015 were San Jose, CA (53.7%), San Francisco (47.6%), Honolulu (36.7%), Los Angeles (35.8%), and Pittsburgh, PA (35.0%).

Markets with the lowest share of equity rich properties as of the end of 2015 were Memphis, TN (11.4%), Dayton, OH (12.1%), Indianapolis (12.4%), Las Vegas (13.1%), and Cleveland, OH (13.3%).

Half of all properties in foreclosure now have some equity, a new high

As of the end of 2015, 49.7% of all homes in foreclosure had some equity, the highest percentage since RealtyTrac began tracking in Q3 2013. The share of in-foreclosure properties with equity at the end of 2015 was up from 43.3 percent as of the end of Q3 2015 and up from 34.6% as of the end of 2014.

The increase in equity in 2015 was the enabling factor in assisting some less fortunate homeowners such as those troubled by divorce, health, or job loss events the ability to avoid foreclosure by taking advantage of market conditions in the sale or refinance of their properties, said Michael Mahon, president at HER Realtors, covering the Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus markets in Ohio. This favorable equity environment has helped to reduce the overall foreclosure activity across Ohio, and is further predicted to further reduce the number of underwater foreclosures in 2016.

Among metropolitan statistical areas with a population of at least 500,000, those with the highest percentage of foreclosure homes with equity were Denver (89.6%), Austin, Texas (88.8%), San Jose, California (87.5%), Pittsburgh (85.3%), and Nashville (83.6%).

As of the end of 2015, 28.4% of properties in foreclosure were seriously underwater, down from 33.4% at the end of the third quarter of 2015 and down from 34.6% at the end of 2014 to the lowest level since RealtyTrac began tracking this metric in the first quarter of 2012.

Article source:

Orange County Choppers headquarters to be auctioned off – Times Herald

Posted Jan. 29, 2016 at 8:37 AM
Updated Jan 29, 2016 at 8:40 AM

Article source:

Veteran, wife sue Wells Fargo in foreclosure fight

MORGANTOWN — A wounded veteran and his wife are seeking damages from Wells Fargo over what they claim was an aggressive pursuit of foreclosure by the bank.

Donald R. Manning and Kimberly D. Manning filed a lawsuit on Jan. 8 in Monongalia Circuit Court against Wells Fargo Bank NA, doing business as Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, claiming the bank breached their contract, failed to provide pertinent details of the plaintiffs’ account, refused and returned payments made by plaintiffs, and unfairly tried to collect on payments.

The plaintiffs allege that they entered into a loan agreement on or about June 23, 2005, with an initial principal balance of $94,400 for the property and land at 341 Blacks Run Road in the unincorporated West Virginia community of Core. The note and deed of trust for the subject loan allegedly contains a contractual guaranty by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair which requires that defendant Well Fargo comply with regulations and laws governing VA-guaranteed loans.

In October 2011, the plaintiffs claim, they entered into a settlement with the defendant due to Wells Fargo’s alleged mistreatment of the plaintiffs in servicing their mortgage loan, which reduced the principal balance to $70,331.76 with an interest rate of 4% for a new 30-year term, with a maturity date of Oct. 1, 2041.

In or about early 2015, plaintiff Kimberly Manning allegedly lost her job and lost her income. The Mannings allegedly tried to maintain regular mortgage payments but were unable to do so on Donald Manning’s modest disability income. The Mannings allegedly attempted to contact Wells Fargo multiple times to explore loss mitigation option but were unsuccessful.

Despite this setback, the plaintiffs allegedly continued to make irregular payments, but they claim that Wells Fargo refused to apply the funds into their account and returned the payments. Wells Fargo also allegedly refused to provide the plaintiffs with periodic statements of their account, depriving the plaintiffs of crucial account information.

The plaintiffs allegedly sent a letter requesting information about their account to Well Fargo, and they claim the bank refused to respond to it. The plaintiffs claim that defendant referred their home for foreclosure in May 2015. The plaintiffs allegedly declared bankruptcy on Oct. 2, 2015, and tried to contact Wells Fargo once more for assistance regarding loan payments. They claim the bank ignored their request and, on Jan. 8, Wells Fargo allegedly set their home for foreclosure sale.

The plaintiffs are suing for actual and compensatory damages, temporary injunction of the foreclosure of their home, civil penalties for violation of the VA rules and regulations, appropriate equitable relief, attorney costs and fees, and any other relief deemed just by the court. They are demanding a jury trial and are represented by Sara Bird of Mountain State Justice Inc in Clarksburg.

Monongalia Circuit Court Case number 16-C-14

Article source:

This Week’s Most Popular Home Is a Luxury Foreclosure

6:00 am ET
January 29, 2016January 28, 2016


For the first time ever, this week’s most popular home on® is a foreclosure. Although the U.S. Department of the Treasury reported a decline in foreclosure activity in December, bank-owned homes still lurk in our listings.

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This particularly popular foreclosure is fascinating because it’s a true outlier. It’s not blighted, there are no holes in the walls, and the appliances aren’t ripped from their moorings. Plus, it’s listed for a rather robust $1.48 million—ranking it among the 100 most expensive properties currently in foreclosure. However, compared with properties in its neighborhood worth well over $2 million, it’s a bargain for a buyer with deep pockets.

Aside from the foreclosure, four of this week’s top 10 are clustered in Pennsylvania, which merited a few raised eyebrows on our team. We also saw the return of our favorite castle in Connecticut—and it looks $6 million cheaper than it used to.

With that, we’ll lower the gates and let you peruse this week’s most-clicked listings.

10. 15700 Kentucky Rd, Belton, MO

Price: $409,888

Why it’s here: This century-old Victorian sits on over 5 acres of land. We’re not sure what made it so popular this week, but we’d like to sit on this home’s fabulous front porch with a glass of sweet tea and ponder it a bit.

Belton, MO

Belton, MO

Belton, MO


9. 1183 Piketown Rd, Harrisburg, PA

Price: $239,900

Why it’s here: With apologies to Drake, we say if you like this place, it’s too late. It’s pending sale after just a week on the market. Listing agent Bob Stammel said he priced the home right in the area’s sweet spot and credited his stager (his wife) and photographer for doing an awesome job. He said he received multiple offers within days and the home will sell for over its asking price.

Harrisburg, PA

Harrisburg, PA

Harrisburg, PA


8. 450 Brickyard Rd, Woodstock, CT

Price: $39,000,000

Why it’s here: The Connecticut castle is back, baby! After placing third overall in our look at most popular homes of 2015, it climbed back out of the moat thanks to a recent $6 million price cut.

Woodstock, CT

Woodstock, CT

Woodstock, CT


7. 5745 Georgetown Verona Rd, Lewisburg, OH

Price: $2,700,000

Why it’s here: This custom-built property outside Dayton offers a unique open feel. The most expensive listing in Preble County by a large margin, this mansion on 100 acres of land might be an ideal spot for the next county fair.

Lewisburg, OH

Lewisburg, OH

Lewisburg, OH


6. 8 Circle St, Perry Township Fay, PA

Price: $249,900

Why it’s here: You may recognize the “Silence of the Lambs” house by now. Long live Buffalo Bill! Last week’s winner slid five spots but remained a top topic thanks to a unique offer from the folks at PETA.

Perry Township, PA

Perry Township, PA

Perry Township, PA


5. 1334 Pisgah State Road, Shermans Dale, PA

Price: $1,595,000

Why it’s here: A most interesting Venn diagram. Listing agent Dick Tucker said he targeted two types of home buyers in his marketing efforts. One is the equine market, who’d be interested in the home’s three-stall barn, riding ring, and expansive pasture. The other is hobby aviators, who fly ultralight airplanes. This property comes with an airfield! So, if you know any horse-riding pilots, this “terrific mountaintop property” might be just the spot.

Shermans Dale, PA

Shermans Dale, PA

Shermans Dale, PA


4. 115 Knorr Rd, Gettysburg, PA

Price: $1,650,000

Why it’s here: “It’s a one-of-a-kind home for the area,” said listing agent Marvine Jenkins. The custom-built log and timber home is high-end for Gettysburg, but the home merits its price tag thanks to its detail and 10 acres of land, she explained. The area booms with tourists during the high season, and this luxurious lodge would be ideal for someone who wants to retire in the historic town.

Gettysburg, PA

Gettysburg, PA

Gettysburg, PA


3. 9 Ryan Farm Rd, Windham, NH

Price: $1,750,000

Why it’s here: There are fewer than 300 million-dollar listings in all of New Hampshire, and this six-bedroom Colonial is one of them. Only 35 minutes from Boston, this mansion promises “panoramic views and dramatic sunsets.”

Windham, NH

Windham, NH

Windham, NH


2. 3658 S Highway 47, Lonedell, MO

Price: $1,049,000

Why it’s here: The Lazy S Ranch is a “cool property,” said listing agent Elaine Medve. Located about an hour outside of St. Louis, the 63-acre country property could be a buyer’s primary residence, she said. However, we’d love this log home (with three private ponds!) as our weekend retreat.

Lonedell, MO

Lonedell, MO

Lonedell, MO


1. 3020 E Flint Hills National Pkwy, Andover, KS

Price: $1,475,000

Why it’s here: Bargain hunters take notice. “You’re getting a house for 50 cents on the dollar,” said listing agent Leanne Barney. This luxurious bank-owned home located on a golf course just hit the market, and Barney said she’s been showing it just about every day. Comparable homes in the area list between $2 million and $2.5 million, she explained, making this six-bedroom mansion a steal. Best of all, the home bears no resemblance to the foreclosures we often see—everything inside and outside the estate is in immaculate shape.

Andover, KS

Andover, KS

Andover, KS

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