I Don’t Care What the Media Says, Housing Market is Horrible, and Homeowners Still Suffering through the Loan Mod Process

I know what sorts of headlines run rampant through the media these days. It’s nothing new… it’s been going on non-stop since at least 2008. It’s also utter and complete nonsense.

Housing market horrors…

Now, I said this would happen so many times last year, that it’s annoying to have to repeat myself, but the housing market has been hit by yet another foreseeable perfect storm. To begin with, ever since the president’s Making Home Affordable program was announced, we’ve been refinancing the same people over and over again, this last time around at rates as low as 3.5 percent fixed.

So, that ended last July and won’t return because even the almost-all-powerful Fed can’t get rates low enough to pull the same trick again, so although there will always be some that refinance, any sort of refi boom is DOA.

And then there’s all them new-fangled rules, supposedly put in place to right the wrongs that caused the mortgage and housing meltdown… Dodd Frank, the CFPB, TILA, RESPA… and anyone who thought these new rules wouldn’t suppress home sales was simply delusional.
Of course, all of these things are on top of the rest of the problems we’ve neglected to fix for the last six years. Underwater homes are still a huge problem.

The national average is only 20 percent, but no one sells their home to break even, so when you factor in sales commissions, moving expenses and the need for a 20 percent down payment, the percentage of homes underwater is… I don’t know… HIGH. Like, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out it’s over 70 or 80 percent, not that anyone has any incentive to find out. And most of whoever is left probably likes their home and doesn’t want to move.

The evidence is abundant…

During the fourth quarter of 2013, Black Knight reported that origination volume dropped below 400,000 mortgages for the first time since 2011. And by year-end, we were at the lowest point since mid-2008 when volume plummeted to around 300,000, and it felt like the world might not make it through the bloodletting.

However, mortgage originations during the first quarter were pathetic, down some 70 percent year-over-year at Citi and Chase, and its safe to assume elsewhere as well. Then the second quarter was similarly bad… originations were down 66 percent year-over-year at the end of Q2.

Now, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has reported that, “potential default rates remain nearly double the 6 percent maximum AEI says is conducive to a stable market, suggesting there’s been no “discernible impact from QM [Qualified Mortgage] regulation.”

Unnamed AEI researchers were quoted in DS News as saying: “Risk in the mortgage marketplace remains perilously high.”

So, that’s all very encouraging in terms of pointing to the obviously bright future ahead, as I’m sure you’d agree.

All done waiting for the kids to come home?

Zillow and Puulseonomics, whoever they are, just published the results of their study of why “millennials” are still not buying homes like no one thought they would.

Apparently, “a panel of economists, real estate experts, and market strategists” has finally found the courage to agree publicly that “the median age of first-time homebuyers is likely to keep moving up in the next decade,” because they’ve all concluded at long last that the millennials have decided to sit out the carnage and not buy homes until later in their lives.

You know, later in their lives… like maybe the times of their lives when they have jobs, can qualify for loans, and aren’t still watching their parents, aunts and uncles losing homes every year, because those sorts of times would seem to be worth waiting for as far as house hunting is concerned.

Hey, maybe some of the millennials are simply waiting to buy their own parent’s home after foreclosure as an REO. What? It could happen.
The National Association of Realtors said that the typical first-time homebuyer in 2013 was 31 years old, but a significant number of “experts’ sais they think the average age will go up to 34 or even older in the years to come.

Homeownership in the United States today is at a 20 year low, and the Zillow/Pulse study reported that the largest declines are among “younger and early middle-aged Americans,” which could mean that many of the older folks have already lost homes to foreclosure, like maybe over the last six years, or that the older homeowners have become too much of a pain in the neck to foreclose on, I’m not sure which is more likely.

Of course, student loan debt and bleak prospects for good jobs were cited as the only culprits, which just shows me that they think that collectively we’re dumber than a stump.

Household formation is still down at levels never before seen in this country, and there’s simply no need to buy a home until you’ve got a household to put in it. And household formation is likely to be down in part because of student loan debt, but also because fewer people want to get married when they’re poor.

And as to the big picture, the survey concluded that, “it’s way too soon to conclude that the market has healed and returned to the old normal,” thus establishing for all to see that it is they who are dumber than stumps. (Does that last sentence make me something less than a serious journalist, or just someone who tells truth to power?)

Triple Celebrity Foreclosurcide…

And speaking of power, Burt Reynolds has lost his motion in a Florida court to have his foreclosure thrown out, instead the judge told Bank of America to proceed with the foreclosure on his waterfront Hobe Sound home known as Valhalla. Merrill Lynch filed the foreclosure action in 2011, after Burt fell behind on his payments.

Witnesses on the scene said that Burt, asking that the court call him “Lewis,” turned to them and said: “Sometimes you have to lose your house ‘fore you can find anything.”

Actress Mischa Barton, former star of “The O.C.” is officially in foreclosure, after the bank filed a Notice of Default this week on her Beverly Hills property. Barton is said to have bought the place for $6.4 million in 2005, when presumably she was still a famous movie star. Now $100,000 behind, TMZ.com reported that she’s been trying to unload the place since 2010.

Her mortgage is approximately $4.25 million, so it would seem that she’s down over $2 million since she bought it, and couldn’t sell it for what she owed. She even tried renting it out for $35,000 a month, but couldn’t find another member of the nouveau riche crowd to over-pay to live in the place.

Just further evidence of how red hot the Beverly Hills housing market has gotten over the last couple years as home prices have reportedly skyrocketed to 2006 levels… apparently everywhere but in the 90210.

Rounding out the celebrity trifecta is former heavyweight boxing champion, Evander Holyfield, whose failed business ventures, two divorces and hefty six-figure annual child support bills, have lad him to recently lose his 54,000 square foot mansion complete with 109 rooms, bowling alley and in-home theater, to foreclosure.

It took nearly four years for JPMorgan Chase to take ownership of the shopping mall size home in Fairburn, Georgia for $7.5 million. Holyfield reportedly owed north of $14 million. So, is that another example of home prices recovering? Georgia mansions are still down by 50 percent? How low were they?

Sources say that Holyfield never applied for a loan modification, but if he had, my advice to Chase would have been that they place armed guards, motion sensors, and video surveillance all around the Holyfield file 24 hours a day in a fire proof environment in order to make sure that his paperwork could not be lost under any circumstances. I would not want to be the guy that lost his paperwork, would you?

Loan modification madness…

With all of this swirling around us every day, the news continues to report only that economic recovery is sweeping the nation. That anyone still listens to such fanciful tales, let alone believes them, is amazing to me. The only explanation I can come up with is that optimism is a very hard thing of which to let go.

But we all know the real deal, we can feel the truth about the economy, we know what recovery feels like and this is not it.

Every month, foreclosures are supposedly down or coming to an end, until they’re up in Illinois, or breaking records in Connecticut… the numbers are always manipulated, and there’s no money in telling the truth about the whole mess, so no one does.

Although I couldn’t prove it, because I don’t keep track of the specific numbers, I think Mandelman Matters is a valid barometer for what’s going on with foreclosures and loan modifications. I hear from homeowners everyday from all over the country and those I can help in some way, I help. So, if the news about foreclosures were true, I’d know it.

Yes, for some homeowners loan modifications are easier to get than they have been in the past, but that’s not to say the process is easy or fun by any means. The people who have it the easiest are those with W-2 income and one home, who aren’t more than a year behind.

But, for the self-employed with a rental property who are more than a year behind… it’s like playing Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey barefoot in a pitch black room filled with dangerous objects and broken glass all over the floor. It’s not impossible, by any means, I see these sorts of cases get approved every week, but it’s next to impossible without some sort of real expert guidance.

I wish I could do more to help more people, but I’m just one person and I can’t really afford to do what I do now. And the problem is, it’s obvious that our government, both state and federal, have essentially given up on doing anything more to make anything better. So, I fear this is it.

If you’re reading this and need help, especially if you’re with Bank of America or Ocwen, but also if you’re with Chase and/or a few others like SPS, SLS… maybe even Nationstar, you can contact me at Mandelman@mac.com. And if I can help you in some meaningful way… I certainly will.

People ask me why I continue to do what I do all the time now… and I wonder about the same thing myself every few hours on some days. The reasons are below… from one homeowner I spoke with just a few days ago… and another I’ve never spoke with, but who I apparently helped anyway.

Hello Martin,

I believe my head is still reeling from your call last Thursday. Reeling in a good way, of course, as my faith has been restored in the best of humanity—those who help because they can, and because they, too, see and are repulsed by the horror wrought upon unsuspecting and otherwise good citizens. And I guess there were millions of us. That is a difficult matter to conceptualize.

Anyway, I won’t drone on. I simply wanted to thank you in advance for any action you take which may help us stay in our home of twelve years. We are three senior citizens, all permanently disabled, and we rescue animals—none of us has any children or grandchildren. It is simply the case we would have nowhere to go should the hammer come down.


John Woodworth


Dear Mr. Andelman,

I stumbled across your website when I was nearly ready to call it quits and put our house on the market. I was mystified and disheartened by all home loan modification horror stories but I was determined that there must be a way to make it work.

My husband got laid off and I had our baby in July of 2013 and our lives have been in a financial and emotional rock tumbler ever since. Your research, insights, and encouragement helped me focus my energies and I contacted Wells Fargo (my long term bank and loan holder) regarding a HAMP refinance. Well, apparently being destitute and unable to afford food does not make your poor enough to qualify for HAMP but Wells Fargo had their own program we did qualify for.

If being down and out has made me good at one thing, it’s applying for thing financial aid. I got all our paperwork in promptly and within a month we were set up for our trial payments (3). I also decided to ride the wave of productivity and apply for grad school (and got accepted!).

Our refinance is now official and our payments have gone from around $1150 a month down to $773! It’s a forty-year loan but it stays at 2% interest for five years and will never go above 4.75%. Things are still challenging for us but this has been a huge relief for us and a source of great hope.

Thanks again for your research, insights, and humor!

Trish Schlobohm


So… what would you do if you were in my shoes? Quit? I guess one day I may have to, but for now I guess I’ll just keep doing my best to help in whatever way I can… and telling truth to power… along with anyone else who cares to listen.

Mandelman out.


Need help with your modification? Especially if you’re with Bank of America or Ocwen, but also if you’re with Chase and/or a few others like Bayview, SPS, SLS… maybe even Nationstar…

You can contact me at Mandelman@mac.com.
And if I can help in some meaningful way… I certainly will.

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