Neverland Saved From Foreclosure. “Entertainer Michael Jackson said yesterday a foreclosure sale on his Neverland Ranch set for this week was averted after a loan on the California property was sold to Colony Capital, a large real estate investment firm. The loan, said to be about $23.5 million, had been held by Fortress Investment Group. The ranch in Santa Barbara County was slated to be auctioned off on Wednesday after Mr. Jackson defaulted on loan payments.”
One in 200 NY Homes in Foreclosure. “New York Superintendent of Banks Richard Neiman says one in 200 homes in the state are in foreclosure… In Q1’08 alone, 14,000 foreclosures were recorded in New York… To date, the statistics indicate that Queens and Brooklyn account for 32 of the total foreclosure filings in New York, while Long Island trails behind at 24%.”
Huge Foreclosure Sale A Sign Of Times. North Carolina: “Master-in-Equity clerk and auctioneer Harriet Hendricks presided over a marathon foreclosure auction of nearly three dozen properties Tuesday… Two weeks ago, Master-in-Equity Judge Mikell Scarborough… declared [the auction had] the largest number of distressed homes he's seen go on the block at one time during his five years in office… Most of the homes — 25 out of the total 33 — went back to the lenders that financed the mortgages.”
Dueling Views on Housing: Jim Rogers Sees More Pain to Come While Warren Buffett’s Housing Expert Sees Rebound Under Way. “Ronald J. Peltier, chairman/CEO of investing guru Warren Buffet’s HomeServices of America Inc. real estate company: The housing industry generally does better when Republicans are in office, though he did not endorse a specific candidate in the presidential race. "There has been more showboating and discussion than actual rubber that meets the road," he said regarding the legislative impasse. "The fact of the matter is we really need to have some new legislation in place to slow down and stall the foreclosures."
Mosquito-Eating Fish Help Clean Up Foreclosure Mess. “Wall Street Journal: The Gambusia affinis, a small, subtropical fish that eats mosquito larvae, is being used in California, Arizona, Florida and other areas dealing with the rising number of foreclosures. The hardy fish… can survive in the swimming pools for months, eating up to 500 larvae a day. Officials concerned that infested pools could lead to disease outbreaks say that the fish prevent crews from having to use pesticides, keeping pools safe during the lengthy foreclosure process. So many homes are involved that some agencies are hiring planes to locate and photograph abandoned pools from the air.
Riverboat Funds Could Provide Foreclosure Help. Illinois: “It's only May, and there already have been more foreclosure notices through the Kane County recorder's office than there were for all of 2007… County Board members [have] approved a $50,000 riverboat grant for a foreclosure-prevention counseling program run by Joseph Corp. The grant is one of the larger ones among the 35 riverboat grants totaling $943,999 the board will vote on Tuesday morning. The board's riverboat subcommittee originally was going to give the program nothing, in large part because it did not fit the usual guidelines for the riverboat grants.”
White House Threatens To Veto Anti-Foreclosure Bill. “The White House is threatening to veto a measure that would spend $300 billion to help distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure. The House passed the measure last week while a similar bill is making its way through the Senate. The American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act (H.R. 3221), authored by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), is aimed at expanding federal programs available to distressed homeowners. The White House says the plan rewards speculators and and lenders who make shaky loans.”
House Passes Mortgage Relief Bill. “Thirty-nine Republicans from states hard hit by foreclosures joined 227 Democrats in voting for the [mortgage relief] bill, defying a White House veto threat… Among the rescue strategies, the package expands Federal Housing Administration loan programs by $300 billion to help borrowers and lenders refinance properties into more affordable fixed-rate mortgages. It also raises the cap on mortgages the FHA could ensure, from $362,790 to $729,750 or 125% of the median home price in a market, whichever is less. To help sell vacant properties, It would provide a no-interest 15-year loan of $7,500 for first-time homebuyers, along with a one-time $350 tax deduction.”
Bill Promotes Local Fixes For Foreclosure. California: “Legislators and local redevelopment associations are pushing for legislation that would free billions in local dollars to scoop up foreclosed and vacant properties. One bill working its way through the Legislature would remove some regulations on how redevelopment agencies, or RDAs, spend their money. That would allow them to buy foreclosed properties to prevent chronic vacancy, blight and crime, which many cities fear could result from the steep downturn. Assembly Bill 2594, introduced by Gene Mullin, D-San Mateo, would allow redevelopment agencies to fund such programs as pre-foreclosure assistance and post-foreclosure acquisition, including sale or rental of single-family homes by the agencies.”
Fannie to Aid Underwater Loans. “Fannie Mae is preparing to introduce by midyear a program of refinancing mortgages for people who owe more than the current value of their homes… The plan… differs from a bill approved by the House on Thursday that would authorize the FHA to insure loans for distressed borrowers only after the lender has written down the principal... Fannie's refinance plan would result in new loans of equivalent size, leaving the borrower underwater but giving him or her a lower monthly payment or at least a fixed rate. Fannie: The new program is limited to people who have kept up on their payments so far and whose loans are owned or guaranteed by the company.”
Mortgage Holders Find It Hard to Walk Away From Their Homes. “Millions of Americans are “upside down” on their mortgages — they owe more on their homes than their homes are worth. So far, however, there is little evidence that people who have the means to pay are walking away from their homes as values sink… Freddie Mac (FRE) estimates that just 0.14% of the defaulted mortgages in its portfolio involved properties that were abandoned by borrowers. Fannie Mae puts the figure in the single digits. Both companies deal in relatively conservative loans, so the total rate may be somewhat higher. Industry officials say they have no way of knowing for sure.”
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