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Foreclosure myths …

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5 MORE Foreclosure Myths – BUSTED!

This is good information, and worthwhile for all of us to understand.  As always, the contrast between the recession experience in Austin/Central Texas and the national news is important.

First, a quick comment on Myth #2:  Yes, when you buy a bank foreclosure you get clear title, and the property is eligible for title insurance.  The question of clear title is at the heart of the recent moratorium on foreclosures.  Since mortgage portfolios were packaged and sold and resold over the past several years, there are some legitimate issues involved in verifying which lender or lenders have the legal right to foreclose, and therefore whether they actually have title that can be properly conveyed when the “bank-owned” property is sold.  That’s the point of the recent slow-down — taking time to make sure i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed before a foreclosure is executed.

A quick footnote:  The discussion above focuses on bank foreclosures.  Tax seizures can differ.  The legitimate buyer still acquires clear title, subject to the right of the previous owner (i.e., delinquent taxpayer) to redeem the property — up to two years in Texas.

Regarding Myth #3:  We keep hearing about a “shadow inventory” of several million properties.  The linked article rightly points out that lenders are pacing their foreclosure activities — seizures and resales — to prevent a flood of inventory that depresses home prices.  These lenders have a direct interest in the highest home prices that the market will allow, and they know very well that dumping all of the potential foreclosures on the market at once is not in their best interests, nor in the longer term interest of general market health.

It also worth keeping in mind that the worst impact of the recession and housing crisis remains concentrated in five states — California, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, and Michigan, with some significant but localized issues in Ohio and Georgia.  Indeed, 55% of all the foreclosures in the United States over that past year were in just 37 counties — and none of those counties are in Texas.  Even within the relatively sheltered Texas market, the Austin area remains the strongest.  We have seen more foreclosures than usual over the past couple of years, and there will be more than usual in the coming year or two, but their impact on home values has largely been concentrated in specific neighborhoods.  Average sale prices in the Austin metro area were actually UP 4% in September 2010 compared to the previous year.

As for Myth #4:   Local real estate is the ultimate competitive marketplace, with thousands of individual sellers represented by thousands of real estate agents or property owners competing for the attention of thousands of represented and unrepresented buyers.  Even with some inventory build-up in the Austin area in recent months, supply and demand remain fairly well balanced in the metro area.  These market conditions very effectively bring buyers and sellers together at the fair market value for any given property.

Are there bargains among foreclosures (and short sales)?  Sure.  There are also overpriced properties in this inventory.  The same is true of all of our listing inventory.  Recognize that in almost all cases, when a homeowner stops making mortgage payments they have already stopped spending money on property maintenance, and even basic care for cleanliness can go by the wayside when it becomes clear they the property will be foreclosed.  The key is for a buyer to establish priorities for a home search:  location, size, age, style, access to schools, employers, transportation, clubs, recreational facilities, how much renovation will be acceptable, etc., etc., etc. — and then to use the best information available to consider all homes that meet those needs. 

A real estate professional has ready access to all inventory and should be happy to provide complete buyer consultation regarding price vs. value.  This should apply when considering FSBO properties as well.  Driving around collecting flyers from overpriced homes in a neighborhood can create a distorted view of what real values are in the area.  Comprehensive analysis of current supply/demand conditions and recently closed sales are the only way to move confidently in buying a home.

Likewise, this same kind of consultation is vital for prospective home sellers.  Competing with a strongly motivated seller with plenty of equity can be more challenging than having a foreclosure for sale across the street if the bank is determined to achieve an unrealistic price.

So … if it’s your time to buy or sell, don’t wait for some imaginary sea-change in the Central Texas real estate market.  The outlook for home values and mortgage interest rates us UP, and we are not facing a flood of low-priced properties in the coming months.  Make your move because it’s right for you, not because of external factors you read or hear about.

About Bill Morris, Realtor

Many years of business experience (high tech, client service, business organization and start-up, including almost 20 years in real estate) tell me that service is the key to success and I look forward to serving you. I represent both buyers and sellers throughout the Austin metropolitan area, which means first-hand market knowledge is brought to bear on serving your needs. Learn more about my background and experience, my commitment to my clients, my profession, and to the real estate industry at


6 thoughts on “Foreclosure myths …

  1. You can hardly expect us buyers to ignore the direction of the market. I know for a fact that in the southwest Austin area, prices are falling like a rock.

    Would you mind giving price updates, (not inventory) on each of the areas you know well. I mean real data.

    Posted by Mr. Bubble | November 17, 2010, 12:13 AM
    • Mr. Bubble, thank you for your comments. You’re right that buyers generally want lower prices … until they become sellers. The fact is that the vast majority of buyers and sellers want fair market value, and the textbook definition of market value is nothing more or less than what a willing buyer and a willing seller agree on.

      Regarding market prices, specifically in Southwest Austin, here is a chart that I think you’ll find interesting:

      I have closed on properties in SW Austin, NW Austin, East Austin, Pflugerville, Round Rock, and Georgetown over the past few months, and I have provided price opinions to sellers and lenders in all of those areas and more recently. In all cases, there are specific neighborhoods that are seriously distressed, and others that are still moving strongly. It is impossible to generalize about prices “falling like a rock” in any part of town. That’s why getting a comprehensive analysis of the value of a specific property is so important: without it there is simply no way to know whether you’re getting a “bargain” or not.

      Posted by billmorrisrealtor | November 17, 2010, 1:01 AM
  2. By the way, it is not good news for use buyers that you think prices are heading up and the market is stable. That is only good news for sellers, half the market. We want lower prices.

    Posted by Mr. Bubble | November 17, 2010, 12:14 AM
  3. Sorry. I think I misunderstood the areas here. I’m interested in 8E and 8W. Westlake and Barton Creek. I have been out looking as well as observing the MLS. List prices are finally falling dramatically. See my comments on your more recent blog regarding the data we buyers need. Thank you for providing it.

    Posted by Mr. Bubble | November 18, 2010, 3:26 AM
    • It’s easy for us to miscommunicate on that. I get inquiries from folks asking about “Southwest Austin” and find out that they are thinking about SoCo or Barton Hills. No harm.

      Regarding West Austin and Westlake, you’re right that average sale prices have taken a dive in recent months, but note where thay have fallen


      . That part of town sells in a price range that was largely unaffected by the $8,000 tax incentives over the past year. Those programs badly distorted seasonal demand under $200,000, but the $400,000-and-up market in West Austin experienced summer selling season unlike many areas. Compared to June-July-August, prices in September and October look horrible, but October 2010 is actually a little stronger than a year ago, and we certainly did not see the spike in summer demand in 2009.

      There is a reason you don’t see this kind of area-specific analysis often — it is extremely cumbersome and time-consuming to assemble. The Austin Board Of Realtors and many title companies in town collect some of this information, but it is password-protected for members of ABoR. As you have probably seen, I maintain my own analysis of metro area stats at, but I generally wait until I have specific requests from clients and/or lenders for narrower information than that. Feel free to send me your email address and I’ll be happy to send you periodic updates on market activity in West Austin.

      Thanks again for your comments and questions. I hope this is helpful, although it is obviously not as detailed as you would prefer.

      Posted by billmorrisrealtor | November 18, 2010, 9:49 AM


  1. Pingback: Foreclosure myths … « Bill Morris' Austin Real Estate Blog | Market My Home Local - November 21, 2010

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