Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

On Thursday, the Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could affect a large number of  home foreclosures.    

The Court of Appeals ruled that mortgage lenders should not have used a national industry agency to file the foreclosures. The lower court found the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS, had no standing to file the foreclosure paperwork.    

“Anytime you’re going to take the fast track on foreclosing and take another person’s property…you need to be able to do it correctly…and right ….and legitimately," sais Lorray Brown, an attorney with the Michigan Poverty Law Program.

Detroit1701 / flickr

People interested in purchasing tax-foreclosed properties in Wayne County have until Friday to submit deposits.

The second round of this year’s auction starts the following week. The minimum bid for all properties is $500.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan home sale prices increased significantly during the past three months. But according to a new report, prices are predicted to take another tumble. 

Michigan home sale prices are down dramatically from their pre-recession highs. However, a new report from Clear Capitol says Michigan home buyers have been paying more in recent months.

“Michigan overall is actually up even more so than the Midwest region. We have them up 8.5 percent on a quarter over quarter basis.  But still down six percent from where prices were a year ago," says Alex Villacorta with Clear Capitol. 

But Villacorta says home sale prices nationally appear to have plateaued and he expects they will decline about 3 percent this winter and even more in Michigan, which he says is more volatile than the national housing market.  

Villacorta says Detroit’s housing market continues to struggle and remains one of the lowest performing home sales markets in the country. He blames this on the fact that one in every three homes on the market has been repossessed by banks that are now trying to sell them at far below market prices.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Dozens of rental property owners and housing advocates are expected at a meeting in Grand Rapids this week. The rise of foreclosures could prompt the city to change parts of its housing code.

The city inspects rental properties with two or more units. They check for fire alarms, peeling or chipping lead paint, and other safety hazards. But single family homes for rent are exempt from inspections.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 August saw a big leap in the number of new home foreclosure filings in Michigan.   

2011 was expected to be a record year for home foreclosures in Michigan, but it didn’t happen.  Foreclosure filings slowed at the beginning of the year, as banks scrambled to fix paperwork problems and respond to new government regulations.  But it appears now the tide is turning.  

New home foreclosure filings jumped 36 percent from July to August in Michigan.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan home prices are still sliding thanks to banks selling foreclosed homes and short-selling others. Realty Trac reports 40 percent of all home sales in Michigan between April and June involved banks either selling foreclosed homes or short-selling other homes that were on the verge of being repossessed. That percentage is up slightly from the beginning of the year and the same time last year. 

Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac. He says the banks sold the homes at about a 40 percent discount. 

“We’re seeing the prices come lower and the discounts go higher, which is good news for buyers.  And it does indicate that the lenders maybe more willing to take a bigger loss on these properties in order to get them sold.”

Bloomquist expects repossessed homes will continue to be a drag on Michigan’s housing market for the next few years.

Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

Foreclosure activity dropped by more than a third this past year, according to the group RealtyTrac. But despite the national slowdown, regional companies that take care of foreclosed homes are still thriving. Their job is to keep empty houses clean and safe from the forces that depress local property values: squatters, thieves and decay.

Dawn Hammontree probably never expected to see their work firsthand.

The first part of Hammontree’s story is familiar in Michigan. Her unemployment ran out in December.

flickr user Detroit1701 /

City officials have confirmed what residents in many Detroit neighborhoods have said for several years: squatting is on the rise.

Detroit has more than 100,000 vacant properties. And with the foreclosure crisis, even the city’s most stable neighborhoods are dealing with squatters.

Michael Brady is with Community Legal Resources, a group that has helped neighborhood groups deal with vacant property issues in Detroit.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan’s foreclosure rate continues to fall. A new report shows another month with a sharp decline in foreclosure filings in the state. RealtyTrac reports home foreclosure filings in Michigan declined by 15% from June to July. The filings were down 42% compared to July 2010.   

A foreclosure industry analyst says one reason for the decline is banks are taking advantage of government programs designed to keep people from losing their homes. Government anti-foreclosure programs have been the target of critics who say the programs have not kept people from losing their homes.  

But Daren Bloomquist with Realty Trac says this year’s downward trend in home foreclosure filings is probably due at least in part in part to the much maligned anti-foreclosure programs.  He says banks and other lending institutions are becoming more interested in taking part in those programs. 

“A short sale…a loan modification….is looking a lot better in their eyes than it was even last year.   It’s looking like a much better alternative than foreclosure to them.”

Bloomquist says the glut of repossessed homes will continue to depress home sale prices through probably 2015. He says keeping more homes from being repossessed may help reduce the glut of homes clogging the housing market.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The number of foreclosure filings dropped significantly in cities across Michigan during the first six months of the year.   Daren Bloomquist, with Realty Trac, says this not necessarily good news.  

 “We’ve probably seen the peak of foreclosure activity in this cycle.  But it may take a while to really to clear the decks and get all the foreclosures that have built up over the last few years sold on to the market.”

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

There’s a David-and-Goliath story about to play out in federal court in Detroit.

Oakland County Treasurer Andrew Meisner says Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are illegally dodging millions of dollars in taxes. The government-backed mortgage giants were created by the federal government, but they were spun off decades ago as hybrid enterprises with a policy mission and a profit motive. 

Just where Fannie and Freddie sit on the public-private spectrum is the central issue of the court case. And the court fight could be a bellwether for similar battles in other states. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The number of home foreclosures tumbled in Michigan during the first half of the year. One analyst says that’s bad news.  

Realty Trac reports that home foreclosure filings dropped by about 20 percent during the first six months of 2011. One in 74 homes in Michigan received a foreclosure notice between January and June. 

Rick Sharga is with Realty Trac. He says continuing questions about problems with foreclosure paperwork has slowed down the number of properties being repossessed by banks. Federal and state regulators are expected to announce a deal soon clearing major lenders from intentional wrongdoing involving faulty paperwork that mistakenly evicted people current on their mortgages. 

Sharga says the delay in foreclosure filings has slowed the recovery in Michigan’s real estate market. 

 “What over 60% of buyers are looking for right now are bank owned properties or foreclosure properties.   So it might be a little of a ‘Catch-22’ here…where we need a higher inventory of these distressed properties to get the buyers off the sidelines.”  

Sharga says it may take until 2015 to clear the huge backlog of homes in the foreclosure process which will continue to be a drag on the home sale market.

Legislation introduced at the state Capitol aims to make it more difficult for land speculators to bid on foreclosure properties at tax auctions.

State Senator Tupac Hunter says the glut of foreclosure properties has created an environment ripe for speculators who buy properties to flip them, with no intention of improving them or paying taxes on them.

His legislation would set some restrictions on who can participate in auctions where tax-foreclosed properties are sold:

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Detroit home prices posted sharp declines during the first 6 months of 2011, according to a new report.  And the decline is expected to continue during the next 6 months.  Clear Capital reports Detroit’s home sale prices were down 19.8% during the first half of the year compared to the first six months of 2010. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Oakland and Ingham counties are suing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over millions of dollars in disputed tax revenues.

Michigan has something called the real estate transfer tax, and it’s paid by the seller when a property changes hands.

Fannie and Freddie have been unloading many of the homes that revert to them in foreclosure sales.

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner says the companies are trying to have it both ways – getting the benefits of private companies, and the protections of government entities.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There's positive news about the nation's home prices, but that's not  the case in Detroit.  Data released by Clear Capital today suggests home sale prices nationally may be stabilizing.  Home prices lost ground through the winter months, and the latest data shows prices dropped by 2.3% in May.  

But the good news is prices being paid for repossessed homes nationally actually increased last month.   Foreclosed homes have been dragging down home sale prices, but that might be changing. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Detroit’s home prices may soon take another tumble.  Standard & Poor’s Price-Shiller index says home prices in the nation’s 20 largest cities are falling once again.    Home prices in Detroit aren’t falling as fast as other cities in the survey, but then again Detroit’s home prices are already the lowest among the nation’s 20 largest cities.  

  Home prices in Detroit haven’t been this low since 1995.  

Foreclosed homes continued to drag down Michigan home sale prices in the first quarter of the year.  Realty Trac reports nearly 32% of  homes sold in Michigan in the first three months of 2011 were repossessed homes.   

The average price for a foreclosed home was just a little more than $70 thousand.   The price is about a third less than similar homes on the market.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Livingston and Macomb Counties showed some improvement in Metro Detroit’s slumping home sale prices and sales since January. Macomb County boosted home sales by 5% in the four month period. Livingston County increased home sale prices by 8.5% in April to $140,ooo.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Congressman Gary Peters is proposing doing away with the federal home mortgage financing system.   Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became the backbone of the nation’s mortgage system in the past decade.  Fannie and Freddie played a critical role in the housing market collapse.  

House Foreclosure
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan mortgage lenders are taking longer to foreclose on delinquent homeowners.  In 2007, the entire foreclosure process in Michigan took on average 78 days to complete.   This year, the average foreclosure is taking 235 days to complete.  The reason is a mixture of the economy and paperwork. 

According to Realty Trac, this is not just a Michigan issue:

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The number of vacancies in Michigan rose by nearly 50% over the past decade.

According to the latest U.S. Census data, the number of vacant housing units across the state jumped from about 448,618 in 2000 to 659,725 in 2010.

Photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Things continue to look bad for the Midwest housing market. Seven of the lowest performing major markets in the nation are from the Midwest and Detroit leads the pack. Sean McSweeney is with Clear Capital, a national real estate valuation company. McSweeney says while Detroit faces many challenges, there are still reasons Detroit home owners should be hopeful. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The number of home foreclosures in Michigan inched higher last month. One in every 311 homes in Michigan received a foreclosure noticed in March. The number of foreclosures was up about 4 percent from February.

Michigan had the nation’s fifth highest home foreclosure rate in March, behind Nevada, Arizona, California and Utah.     

Daren Bloomquist with Realty Trac says mortgage holders are starting to send more initial foreclosure notices and repossess more homes in Michigan. Bloomquist says an improving economy is the only way to reduce future foreclosure notices in Michigan. 

 “The more the economy improves and jobs improve during the next couple months the less we’ll see that huge spike in foreclosure numbers down the road.”  

While March’s foreclosure numbers rose slightly, overall Michigan’s home foreclosure numbers declined during the first three months of the year.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Detroit home prices continue to slump. New data from Clear Capital show the average sale price in the first three months of the year for a home in Detroit was roughly 60,000 dollars. 

Alex Villacorta is an analyst with Clear Capital. He says foreclosed homes continue to clog Detroit’s housing market, depressing sale prices. 

“Once those saturation rates come down I do think you’ll see prices start to stabilize a little bit.   Even if the overall health improves we’ll see may a more sustained price growth looking forward.”

Home sale prices held steady in most of the nation in the first quarter of 2011, except in the western U.S. where home sale prices fell to levels not seen since 2001.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

County treasurer offices across Michigan this week are processing thousands of homes that have fallen into tax foreclosure. Michigan property owners has until last week to pay up their 2008 property taxes or face losing the property to tax foreclosure. Many counties were expecting about a 10% increase in homes falling into tax foreclosure. 

In Genesee County, the owners of 2,999 properties missed the deadline. About 600 more than last year. Deb Cherry is the Genesee County Treasurer. She was not surprised by the jump in tax foreclosures. 

 “A lot of it has to do with the fact that 2008 was one of the worst years in the housing market.”

Cherry does not expect there will be many buyers when these homes go up for sale later this year.

Many of the properties will find their way to the Genesee County Land Bank, which is already taking care of more than 6,000 properties. Douglas Weiland is the land bank authority executive director.

"Its not a question of whether we can absorb more properties, we will absorb more properties and we expect we'll see that trend continueing for some time yet."

Detroit posted the biggest percentage drop in home prices in the nation, according to a new report. Clear Capitol says home prices in Michigan’s largest home market slide 13% in February, more than any other major city.

Alex Villacorta  is Clear Capitol’s director of research.   He says home prices in Detroit are being dragged down by banks trying to sell foreclosed homes.    Bank owned homes usually sell at well below market prices.

Foreclosure filings in Michigan have fallen to levels not seen since 2008.   Realty Trac reports foreclosure filings dropped by 30 percent in February compared to a year ago. 

Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac.  He says mortgage lenders are finding it difficult to get home foreclosures started, since last fall’s scandal involving incorrect paperwork forcing people out of their homes.  New rules require more safeguards in preparing a foreclosure filing.  But Bloomquist says this is only delaying the inevitable for many delinquent home owners.

  “What hasn’t gone away is there are still a lot of properties that eventually we people will be foreclosed on.  That’s really the only solution for some of these situations.”  

Bloomquist says the slowed foreclosure process might help reduce the number of bank owned homes on the real estate market.   The high number of foreclosed homes on the market is blamed for causing depressed home sale prices.

Fewer homebuyers were interested in buying a previously foreclosed home in Michigan last year. The result is an increasingly high number of bank-owned homes just sitting on the real estate market.  

Just under 41 thousand formerly foreclosed homes sold last year in Michigan.  That’s down by a third compared to 2009 and 2008.  The prices paid for those homes also dropped.

User thinkpanama / Flickr

Nationwide and in Michigan the rate of foreclosures has slowed a bit in recent months.  But Realty Trac experts say that’s less a sign of a robust housing recovery and more a sign that lenders have become bogged down.  They’re reviewing procedures, resubmitting paperwork and formulating legal arguments related to accusations of improper foreclosure processing, the so-called robo-signing scandal.