The change to mark-to-market accounting for certain classes of financial assets (GAAP) has been delayed by Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) - with pressure from the U.S. Congress and bank lobbyists (see: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124396078596677535.html). So, the necessity to actually account for these bank assets' true market value is currently suspended.
If a mortgage owner is a bank and the bank forecloses, the process for re-pricing the asset begins. And, the amount of the loss on the asset would then reduce the calculated bank reserves and force the regulators to require the bank to add more reserves. Under present market conditions this would not be a good thing for the bank, or for the U.S. Government. (Under present conditions banks which could not raise more reserve assets would be forced into FDIC receivership). And, if banks actually began to foreclose rapidly on all borrowers-in-default the calls for Government Sponsored Agency (GSA) loan insurance payoffs would further complicate the bail-out of the GSA's. Also, the demand for private mortgage insurance payoffs would put further stress on private mortgage insurers and impose additional stress on the financial system in general (and probably require private insurers to increase their required reserves).
Another reason banks might avoid foreclosing on a borrower-in-default is that judges are becoming a bit cantankerous. Judges have begun to force loan modifications, mandate cram-downs, and in the absence of good physical documentation proving a bank or investor actually owns the loan, some judges have even awarded property to the (supposed) borrower when the loan documentation is missing, flawed or incomplete.
It seems that the rush to originate loans, slice-and-dice loan tranches, construct CMO derivatives, track ownership, and re-register frequently traded CMO's (in the electronic registration system) led some necessary loan details, and even some complete documentation, to "go missing". So banks and investors are beginning to see foreclosure as a risky and potentially expensive option. (see: 10/24/09 NYT article by Gretchen Morgensen titled, "If Lenders Say 'The Dog Ate Your Mortgage' " at> http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/business/economy/25gret.html )
Another subtlety, as long as the bank allows the borrower-in-default to stay in the home the mortgage investor (bank or CMO investor) is not as greatly exposed to losses from theft, vandalism and gross depreciation of real estate value due to non-maintenance of the property.
Also, by not foreclosing on borrowers-in-default the lender avoids becoming the owner of the property and thus avoids direct liability for property taxes, HOA Fees, and some of the more recently imposed municipality assessments levied against investors who now own foreclosed property (see: http://www.dlapiper.com/miami-dade_foreclosure_ordinances/ for another example see mosquito abatement fees in some areas of California - Indio, Palm Springs, Stockton, Mountain House, etc.)
If the "shadow inventory" came to the market all at once demand would be even further overwhelmed by supply causing even more significant price erosion.
It’s logical . . . perhaps corrupt, but logical.
1. See CoreLogic.com at: http://www.corelogic.com/search.aspx?q=shadow+inventory
2. The Case-Shiller S&P Home Price Index is published on the last Tuesday of the month with a two month time lag in reporting for data gathering and data analysis, at: http://www.standardandpoors.com/indices/sp-case-shiller-home-price-indices/en...
3. Also see, YouTube video The Impact of The Delay in Implementing FAS#157 at:
4. And, watch the YouTube video The Short Sale Conundrum - Mortgage Servicers’ Misaligned Incentives at:
5. Re: Was the strategy for delaying the pain learned during Japan's 'Lost Decade'? “Geithner worked for Kissinger Associates in Washington for three years and then joined the International Affairs division of the U.S. Treasury Department in 1988. He went on to serve as an attaché at the Embassy of the United States in Tokyo.” From Wikipedia, Timothy Geithner at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Geithner
6. Watch a brief segment of Georgetown Law Professor Adam Levitin's Congressional testimony titled, "Regulators Don't Want to Know" at: