Monday, January 30, 2012

Oregon's Move Toward Foreclosure Protections

The Oregonian ran a pretty good article this past Saturday on measures the State of Oregon is taking to assist and protect homeowners facing foreclosure or trying to modify their current loans.  In the short term, Oregon Attorney General, John Kroger, issued some temporary rules, effective immediately, that include loan servicers under the unlawful trade practices act. 

Previously, banks, lenders and funders had operated outside these rules; giving them certain protections.  These new rules give homeowners and the state the ability to hold mortgage servicers accountable.  But, these rules really only help those who have already been wronged, and especially those in some sort of legal action; the minority of distressed home owners.  Yes, I suppose the rules also act as a bit of a hammer or deterrent encouraging loan services to behave. 

More interesting to the average distressed homeowner, are the homeowner protections one hopes the lawmakers will consider in the upcoming legislative session.  Mortgage reform and foreclosure protections are hot buttons that pit the strong banking lobby against home borrowers and distressed property owners, with the legislators in the middle; a place they don't relish.  This may at partially explain why some of the measures below, or their predecessors didn't get full consideration in the last legislative session.    In Saturday's Oregonian article, by Brent Huntsberger, lists the following bills expected to be considered:

" House Bill 4137 would add more specific requirements for servicers to follow, including deadlines to respond to borrower inquiries and limits on fees.

Senate Bill 1564 would bar lenders from putting a homeowner in a trial modification program and foreclosing on their home at the same time, the so-called dual-track process.

Senate Bills 1552 and 1576 and House Bill 4140 would require lenders to mediate with homeowners before foreclosing, as Washington, Delaware and Nevada do."

So I say "yay" for Attorney General Kroger for taking these short term measures by creating these temporary rules.  But the folks in Salem must not be intimidated into inaction by the power and emotion surrounding the foreclosure issues.  Get to work.

Oh,  and for some perspective, the Oregonian article cites CoreLogic's statistics that 2.88% of mortgages in Oregon were in foreclosure in October (the most recent numbers available) and 5.65% were considered delinquent.

If you have questions about the foreclosure process or short sales please get in touch.

The full Oregonian Article

Friday, January 27, 2012

Que Vision. Does your store have it?

I often shop at the Hawthorne Fred Meyer, and noticed several  months ago a large monitor at the front of the store named Que Vision.  If has a graphic of three yellow circles, labeled;  Open, Action Now and 30 Minutes.  Or some such.  The first checker I asked about the screen said , "Oh that.  Ignore it.  It is useless".  Still curious, on a subsequent trip I asked a different cashier and got a bit more thorough of an answer.  Apparently the system has sensors that measure how many people enter and exit the store and may even measure where we are in the store.  It then uses historic data to predict when we'll check out.  In theory, this system helps managers anticipate rushes and slow times, and allocate cashiers accordingly.  I think this is pretty cool, and an interesting use of crowd data for a practical use.  I also love the idea that I might screw up their predictors.  Ha!  The system thought I was headed toward checkout, but instead I veered a quick right to ethnic foods.

I did a bit of googling and happened on the Kroger employee bulletin board and a discussion of the system.  It sounds as though Kroger has an initiative to only have one person in line, in addition to the person checking out.  This seems to be a departure from their previous two people in line in addition to the person checking out.  To meet this goal, without having a bunch of cashiers standing around on the payroll, the employee discussion board says all departments are being cross trained to serve as cashiers.  So in a heavy period, folks from other departments help check out, and in slower times they work in their assigned departments.  I haven't noticed this at the Hawthorne Fred Meyer, in general usual cashiers are at their stations.  The employee bulletin board made it sounds as though Kroger designed this system themselves, rather than buying any of the already on the market products.

Does your grocery store have Que Vision, or a similar substitute?  Do you think your wait times at the checkout line have been reduced?

Monday, January 16, 2012

How's the Market? December's multiple listing stats are in!

Wow!  December's numbers are better than I expected.  The comparisons to last year continue to show lots of improvement in activity, while prices continue to decline.  I have seen a few forecasts showing rising prices, and we do see some tiny evidence of that below.

So, when comparing last year,December 2010 to December 2011,  the number of closed sales increased 10.3% and pending sales increased 11.7%.  Even month to month, closed sales rose 6% from November 2011 to December 2011.  Pending sales did fall, 14.4%, which we expect as fewer folks are looking at real estate and making offers in December (though I did get an offer on a listing on December 26th!).

In looking at prices, the average sale price was down 6.2% from December 2010 to December 2011, with an average sale price of $260,800.  Make note though, this is a 0.5% increase in the average sale price from November 2011 to December 2011.

Also of note, there are fewer houses on the market than there have been for a long time.  At the current rate of sales, it would only take 5.3 months to sell off what is currently listed.  Compare that to January 2009, when it would have taken 19.2 months to sell of the inventory at the then current rate of sales. 

While this makes me feel very optimistic, at least some part of the low inventory is due to the slow rate at which banks are foreclosing on loans in default.  Banks, in general, are slowly streamlining their processes for both short sales and foreclosures.  This has got to help get things moving.

As always, give me a call or shoot me an email if you'd like information about buying or selling in today's market.

Read the full Portland Area RMLS report for December 2011.

Friday, January 13, 2012

How Is Your Technology Confidence?

There are those of us who embrace new technology more easily than others.  It isn't that they already know how to use said new technology item.  But it seems they are predisposed to be enthusiastic about what the new thing might be able to do, AND they aren't afraid to give it a try; to play around with it. 

I'm pretty good with new technology; better with software than hardware it seems.  There is a ton I don't understand, believe me.  But I seem to have the propensity to give it a try; a baseline confidence that I won't screw it up and that there is probably some intrinsic value in the new technology.  How about you?  Do you get sweaty palms when encountering a new program or "device"?

A friend and I were talking the other day about how it seems you need a certain level of tech confidence and understanding to be willing to call into a tech support line.  Without the confidence, fears of not understanding their instructions or questions, along with the fear of seeming stupid, are overwhelming.  So the folks who need tech support the most, often avoid it. 

She also said something like, " People with low tech confidence need to get an iPhone".  That is, that the iPhone (and I think Droids also) help you to do so many techie things at the touch of a finger, you feel like a master, leading to that "bring it on" attitude we all need.

I think this predisposition to embrace something new isn't just tied to technology.  There are those who embrace new innovations of what ever their "thing" is.  My husband is one notch above a Luddite when it come to computers and such.  But he is way beyond handy when it comes to construction.  He can build, plumb, wire, and weld most anything.  If not, he'll figure it out.  And as you might imagine, he LOVES a new tool.  Is he afraid to try and figure out a new tool?  Not at all.  Put my iPhone in front of him, and all confidence, and logical thinking disappear.

And how far things have come.  So much is "plug and play" and most things have those handy pop ups that ask if you are sure you really want to completely wipe out your hard drive, before letting you do so.  So bring it on, give it a try and play around.  You may discover some cool new things and raise your tech confidence at the same time.