Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Housing Hangover Leaves Consumers Confused

Consumers are dazed, confused, loosing sleep, and otherwise wrung out over the housing hangover. A Mortgage Reality Test could be just what the doctor ordered. It's in this take-two story on the topic.

by Broderick Perkins
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

Deadline Newsroom - The housing downturn has come with media critics proclaiming real estate news coverage is too slanted in the direction of real estate market doom and gloom.

However, two new 2008 reports reveal the media may not be doing its job well enough.

One report reveals most consumers are still in the dark about avoiding foreclosures. The other says most consumers believe home prices are stable or rising.

In late January, Freddie Mac specifically said the surge in news coverage about mortgage delinquencies, foreclosures and loan modifications hasn't been enough.

Fifty-seven percent of late paying borrowers say they are unaware lenders may help them avoid foreclosure, according to Freddie Mac survey.

The survey conducted by Roper Public Affairs and Media also said 56 percent of delinquent borrowers are not aware of housing counselors they can talk to about their mortgage.

Both numbers are smaller than those from a similar 2005 report, but they still indicate more than half of delinquent borrowers apparently aren't getting the information they need to help them keep their home.

Some lenders offer refinancing, loan modifications or other loan workouts. Housing counselors can give homeowners skills to help them keep their homes.

National Foundation for Credit Counseling's (NFCC) HousingHelpNow.org offers a self-diagnostic tool known as the Mortgage Reality Check designed to help homeowners determine their risk for foreclosure.

An analysis of the most recent 30-day group of peolpe taking the test revealed:

• Some 78 percent of the respondents said they had trouble sleeping because of worry about their current financial situation, the possibility of losing their home or car, or their ability to use credit. That's up 16 percent from previous months.

• Some 69 percent of consumers said they do not believe that refinancing their home will resolve their financial dilemma, an increase of 8 percent.

• More than half, 59 percent, owe more on their home than it is worth, up by 11 percent.

• The category reflecting how many people had skipped paying some bills in order to pay others grew by 10 percent.

In another consumer survey, a Harris Interactive report for the Zillow.com found that 77 percent of homeowners from around the country believe the value of their home increased (36 percent) or remained the same (41 percent) in 2007. Only 23 percent believe their home lost value last year.

It's impossible to determine how many of those polled live in homes that actually lost value, but leading analysts point to a general trend of falling prices.

Zillow's own estimates -- "Zestimates" -- culled from 90 percent of the nation's public records on home values, indicate home values declined 5 percent on average last year, with many markets posting much steeper declines.

Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices is in the 11th consecutive month of negative home price movements. It's 10-City Composite index just produced a record annual decline of 8.4 percent, the greatest in 16 years. The 20-City Composite index also had a record annual decline of 6.7 percent, the greatest since 2000.

From Merrill Lynch, "Forecast Update: Housing Drags Economy Down The Sink" says home values are in free fall and will tumble 15 percent this year, and an additional 10 percent in 2009.

That's because homes are overvalued by as much as 40 percent, Merrill Lynch reports.

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© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist of 30 years, is publisher and executive editor of San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service, and the new Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's new backshop. In both cases, it's where all the news really hits home.

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