The Rate of Foreclosures and The Shadow Inventory (Part II)

Today I noticed a recent MSN Real Estate section article titled, Foreclosure Filings Fall – But Not in All States.(1) After reading the article I began to wonder . . . .

I wondered:
Does fewer foreclosure notices being filed mean there are actually that many fewer mortgage borrowers who are, or are becoming, ‘in default’ of their obligation to pay their mortgage?

Does fewer foreclosure notices being filed mean that the foreclosure process is (temporarily) becoming even slower than it has been in the past? Does it mean that the homes of mortgage borrowers who are “underwater” and have decided to use the ‘strategic default’ strategy are not becoming part of the shadow inventory?(2) Does it mean that borrowers who have fallen on hard economic circumstances are not continuing to squat in the homes they financed with the easy mortgages they were able to get when economic conditions seemed better? Are such borrowers still squatting, biding their time and saving money, until the foreclosure notice comes and the marshal forces them out of the home? Does fewer foreclosures notices being filed mean that defaulted squatters will have even longer to save money (by not paying their mortgages) before the foreclosure notice is filed and marshal forces them to leave the home in which they are squatting?

Is it possible that filing foreclosure notices has slowed because of seasonal factors? Home purchases normally decline significantly over the holidays (during the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays and past the New Years Holiday). If you held the mortgage on a defaulted residence would you want that residence vacant for three or four months until the Spring home buying season begins. Is it possible that the large mortgage servicers and investors [like the Government’s GSA’s, large banks and public and private pension plans] are concerned about the public relations ‘fallout’ from continuing foreclosures, at a high rate, during the holiday season? Is it possible that mortgage lenders are delaying foreclosures so they can digest their past losses on foreclosures, and hopefully offset future losses on foreclosures against future investment revenue from other asset classes and from fee income? [Are defaulted, but not yet foreclosed homes, still “the pig in python”? (see note below)]

It seems that filing foreclosure notices is an activity which the holders of the mortgage investment can control, or ‘time’ - depending on a number of factors some of which can benefit them. As, the number and the speed of foreclosure filings varies, watch very closely for changes in the shadow inventory.


1. Foreclosure Filings Fall – But Not in All States By Teresa (Real Estate) at MSN - Pub. October 11, 2012, at:

2. For a definition of the shadow inventory see the third paragraph of the October 9, 2012 article, CoreLogic Reports Shadow Inventory Continues to Decline in July at: 

CoreLogic estimates the current stock of properties in the shadow inventory, also known as pending supply, by calculating the number of properties that are seriously delinquent, in foreclosure and held as real estate owned (REO) by mortgage servicers but not currently listed on multiple listing services (MLSs). Roll rates are the transition rates of loans from one state of performance to the next. Beginning with this report, cure rates are factored in as well to capture the rise in foreclosure timelines and further enhance the accuracy of the shadow inventory analysis. Transition rates of “delinquency to foreclosure” and “foreclosure to REO” are used to identify the currently distressed non-listed properties most likely to become REO properties. Properties that are not yet delinquent but may become delinquent in the future are not included in the estimate of the current shadow inventory. Shadow inventory is typically not included in the official metrics of unsold inventory.

NOTE: The pig in the python, see:

Smoke, Mirrors and The Shadow Inventory

The Wall Street Journal “Smart Money” Will Short Sales Hit Home Prices?  By Anna Maria Andriotis - pub. August 22, 2012

 Why is there a ‘shadow inventory’ of homes?


In last quarter of 2008, U.S. banks and their lobbyists pushed the U.S. Congress to force the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to postpone the implementation of mark-to-market accounting (FAS #157).* The FASB eventually acquiesced.  So, after the acquiescence, banks and other collateralized mortgage obligation [CMO] investors can continue to carry these investments at origination value, rather than at the investment’s current market value.


But, if a bank or other mortgage investor forecloses, renegotiates the mortgage, or sells the home (the collateral) the new ‘book value’ of the investment is based upon the new selling price (or mortgage value) - as determined by the terms of the new deal (auction, renegotiation, or sale).


By not foreclosing, renegotiating, or formally taking back properties (REO) banks and other mortgage investors can, to some extent, manage what  their losses appear to be, and hopefully offset the losses - they recognize - against other revenue, over time.


Key-words-search:Congress Helped Banks Defang Key Rule” By Susan Pulliam & Tom McGinty WSJ 6/3/2009 | Professor Adam Levitin Congressional testimony “Federal Regulators Don’t Want to Know” YouTube | Zombie Banks | Japan Lost Decade (Please note that, at the beginning of Japan’s lost decade our current Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner was living and working in Japan as a Treasury Department attaché in the U.S. Embassy.)


*  See, FAS #157 [mark-to-market accounting] and scroll down to the section heading: Effect on subprime crisis and Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 , at


Federal Regulators Don't Want To Know

Recovery, Twisting in the Wind

I find that, when discussing The Shadow Inventory, almost all real estate specialists, lawyers, regulators and many financial analysts can’t tie one very significant cause into the conversation.

The very significant cause that is missed is a rational explanation of why banks and other mortgage investors are so reluctant to liquidate (or renegotiate) bad investments.

Why do they hold significant amounts of mortgage investments which have little hope of being profitable (over the long term)? When a mortgage is in serious default, why don’t mortgage investors accept a ‘short sale’ - and why do they allow a property to go into the potentially higher loss alternative of foreclosure?

I believe the key to understanding why mortgage investors appear to be behaving irrationally, is to understand the implications of the delay in the implementation of Financial Accounting Standard #157 (mark-to-market accounting).(1)

To understand the implications of the delay in the implementation of FAS #157 read an article from the Wall Street Journal titled, Congress Helped Banks Defang Key Rule By Susan Pulliam & Tom McGinty | pub. 6/3/2009.(2)

 Then watch Georgetown University Law Professor, Adam Levitin’s Congressional testimony titled, Federal Regulators Don’t Want to Know . . . (3)

The point that I believe most commenters miss:

The postponement of the implementation of mark-to-market accounting (FAS 157) gives banks and other mortgage (product) investors the opportunity to delay recognition of their market losses until legal ownership of the property changes (foreclosure). Thus, for the investor, the hoped for offset of losses against future revenue is 'the gating factor’ for the liquidation of the shadow inventory.

Most mortgage investors are institutions. These institutions want to delay the recognition of, and the reporting reporting of, any losses to their investors - and to their regulators - for as long as possible.

As Professor Levitin explains in his Congressional testimony, these institutional investors hope to offset losses against income (fees and penalty revenue) over the next decade.

So, the shadow inventory seems to be a consequence of the rational ‘work-out’ in a world in which institutions can carry (and report) highly depreciated assets at (fantasy) origination value.

P.S. I believe in creative destruction.(4)

1. See Wikipedia Mark-to-Market accounting scroll to, Effect on subprime crisis and Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, at:
2. Congress Helped Banks Defang Key Rule By Susan Pulliam & Tom McGinty | pub. 6/3/2009.
3. Georgetown University Law Professor, Adam Levitin’s Congressional testimony titled, Federal Regulators Don’t Want to Know . . . at:
4. Creative Destruction (Shumpeter) see:

End Note: Even some fairly sophisticated observers can’t put the delay in the implementation of FAS 157 into its proper perspective. Why do mortgage investors prefer foreclosure over a short sale? Watch Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) question a panel of mortgage professionals asking, ‘Are there things in accounting principals that we need to change to get everybody to do what’s in everybody's best interests?’at:

 Then listen to Thomas Cox, of Main Attorney’s Saving Homes Project, answer Rep. Scott. Mr. Cox emphasizes a different point (the conflict of interest created by servicer fee revenue) in The Short Sale Conundrum - Misaligned Incentives of Mortgage Servicers, at: and when James Kowalski, a Florida Trial Attorney for Saving Home Project, gets his turn he moves to The MERS Mess. Mr. Kawolski explains the increase in the shadow inventory as a documentation problem rather than an accounting problem, at: