Friday, August 14, 2009

Rick Sharga with RealtyTrac 8-15-09 #135

This week Bruce is joined by Rick Sharga, the Senior Vice President of RealtyTrac. Rick joined RealtyTrac in 2004 as the vice president of marketing. Rick is also a panelist for I Survived Real Estate 2009.

Bruce asks Rick “What services does RealtyTrac offer?” RealtyTrac publishes the largest database of foreclosure and bank owned properties in the country. They also put a lot of related information about those properties in the database including property characteristics, comparable sales, and loan history. It used to take much longer and more expertise to get into the investing business, but RealtyTrac has helped change this.

Rick Sharga congratulates Bruce on producing some of the best educational services in the country.

Realtors use RealtyTrac in a couple ways. Some agents subscribe in order to get up-to-date information on foreclosure activity in their neighborhoods. Others use RealtyTrac to post their properties for sale and to advertise their services to buyers. Appraisers and investors look at property regions to determine property values. You can also use RealtyTrac to check the future inventory of a market place by checking the number of properties in the trustee sale stage. Realtors also use this tool for broker price opinions and to discuss short sale processing.

RealtyTrac’s data goes back to 2005. In 2005, about 530,000 were given foreclosure notices. Over 1.5 million properties have received foreclosure notices through the first half of this year.

Besides the great depression, this is the worst down turn we have ever had. Even professionals who knew this down turn was coming were stunned by how quickly the down turn hit us.

Prices are also falling with the number of foreclosures. In the past, people were taught to honor their contracts, but now one’s financial well being encourages people to walk away from financial responsibility. In many cases, the only option is to execute a deed in lui of foreclosure. The other option is to take the next 15 years to break even on the property you’ve bought.

Bruce asks Rick if he thinks that people consider it more acceptable nowadays to simply walk away from a payment because they do not feel like making the payment. Rick thinks that foreclosures have become so common nowadays that now people are not bothered so much by walking away from their homes. There is discussion in the industry about creating a forgiveness program for people who have gone through foreclosure during this period because the lending programs participated in making this problem worse. Bruce thinks that might make sense because they cannot make houses fast enough to solve the problem. There is discussion about shortening the forgiveness period from 5 to 7 years to 2 or 3 years.

This cycle is unusual because in the past downturns have been caused by an economic occurrence, which then caused unemployment, which then caused foreclosures. This time foreclosures started the problems because home prices were too high and people could not buy a home unless they bought a toxic loan.

Unemployment forces a selling decision that did not exist before. Option ARMs are going to be coming fast for the next 24 months, and they have already experienced a price hit. Option ARMs when they are resetting are always upside down in Riverside. Option ARMs are resetting a little early too because people are making teaser payments.

These home owners have very few options. They have no equity, they cannot afford the higher mortgage payment, and even if they can, they have to decide if that is the best decision for their family’s financial future.

Bruce asks Rick how loan modifications are working out. Rick says that they have done nothing other than give us a lot to talk about. Servicers are only focusing on the length of the loan and the interest rate. The Obama plan does not compel servicers to do principal balance write downs, and it does not moderate their loss. The only way to modify loans effectively is to do a principal write down.

Bruce asks Rick what the ramifications are for giving people principal write downs when they have lied to receive the original loan. Rick is not sure if we will induce more foreclosures by doing this. He thinks we may be overstating the number of people who are in the circumstance. There were not many people putting 50 percent down on their properties in the early part of the decade. People were using ridiculously relaxed financing to obtain properties that they could not afford. Rick thinks that it may be better to do a long term deferral instead of a principal write down. This might keep the home owner at a rate that they could afford, and sometime in the future that amount would be payable. Equity sharing is also one of the options for solving this problem. This involves writing down the principal balance, and requiring sellers to give a percentage of their profit back to the lender. Rick does not think that home owners would be interested in that plan.

States that have non recourse loans in place have a higher percentage of homes that become bank REOs. However, Rick has not seen a comprehensive study on this. There is a lot of discussion right now about increasing the number of loans that have a recourse option.

The House of Representatives passed something recently that will mandate a lender who forecloses on a property to give the former owner a five year lease option on the house. This has not been passed by the Senate yet, but it is coming to them next. Bruce and Rick think that this bill will affect loan programs going forward. Rick says that this is a valiant attempt to help prevent people from ending up on the street but most lenders are not set up to be property managers. People wonder how this will affect their capital structure. How do they treat the loss on that property, how do they treat the asset value, and what does it do to the loan risk profile? It could be a higher risk because more people will default, and it could be a lower risk because lenders will see more revenue.
Bruce asks if moratoriums have worked. Rick says that the only thing that these moratoriums are doing is delaying foreclosures. This could extend the length of the down turn. Moratoriums do not accomplish what they were intended for.

There are probably 10 states that account for approximately 75 percent of the total foreclosures. Most of them are doing moratoriums.

Core Logic says that 9 percent of California borrowers are at least 90 days late. Bruce asks Rick how that affects his outlook for 2010. Rick thinks we have seen the end of the subprime problem. The two big variables are unemployment and how badly Option ARMs will default. RealtyTrac’s forecast is that we may hit a numerical peak this year, because the raw number of option ARM loans was not as large as the raw number of subprime loans, but 2010 will look very similar to 2009. We may see an increase in foreclosure activity. If unemployment extends, and if prices continue to decrease, then 2010 may be worse than 2009.

Rick joined RealtyTrac in 2004 as the Vice President of Marketing. He is responsible for building and maintaining the RealtyTrac brand, corporate positioning and messaging, public and investor relations, and marketing communications activities. As a spokesman for the company, Rick has been quoted extensively in the press on foreclosure, mortgage and real estate trends, and appeared on NBC Nightly News, CNN, CBS, ABC World News and NPR.

Prior to joining the company, Rick spent more than 20 years developing corporate and product branding strategies for technology start-up companies and international corporations such as DuPont, Fujitsu, Hitachi and Toshiba. Rick created and executed successful sales and marketing programs in B2B, technology, consumer electronics and retail for companies like JD Edwards, Philips, Cox Communications and Honeywell.

Rick began his career with one of the world’s largest ad agencies, Foote, Cone and Belding, and also had successful engagements with Ketchum Communications and McGraw-Hill. He founded his own consulting firm, CJ Patrick Company, in 2002 to help companies develop business and brand strategies that clearly communicate a unique value proposition, create a position of competitive advantage, and leverage the strength of their brands in the marketplace.

A nationally-recognized speaker on Branding, Rick spends his spare time taking Tae Kwon Do classes with his 10-year-old son, and trying to keep up with his increasingly-mobile 4-year-old daughter. He also continues in his lifelong quest to find the perfect wine to compliment his BBQ'd baby back ribs.

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