As of March, banks had an inventory of about 1.1 million foreclosed homes, up 20% from a year earlier, according to estimates from LPS Applied Analytics. Another 4.8 million mortgage holders were at least 60 days behind on their payments or in the foreclosure process, meaning their homes were well on their way to the inventory pile. That “shadow inventory” was up 30% from a year earlier.
Based on the rate at which banks have been selling those foreclosed homes over the past few months, all that inventory, real and shadow, would take 103 months to unload. That’s nearly nine years.
The HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) program started by the Obama Administration is trying to modify loans so that lenders will not foreclose:
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According to Goldman Sachs, HAMP started less than 80,000 trial modifications in March, less than half the number in the peak month of October 2009. At the same time, a growing number of modifications are being canceled as borrowers prove unable to pay. By Goldman’s count, about 68,000 were canceled in March.
All this means that little can stop banks’ inventory of distressed homes from growing. Too many people owe too much more on their homes than they can afford. For the housing market, that could mean a long-lasting hangover.