Sep 18

By Howard Frank – Pocono Record

Numbers tell only part of the story of the impact of foreclosures in Monroe County.

Abandoned homes are creating blight in some neighborhoods. Overgrown lawns and shrubbery, broken windows and deteriorating exteriors are among the complaints Polk Township Supervisor Chairman and Roadmaster Brian Ahner said the township has received.

“They are being broken into, vandalized. Piles of trash. I think there might have been people (living) in some of these places,” he said.

The problem isn’t limited to the home’s exteriors. Copper piping and even heating systems are being taken from these homes.

“They are breaking the walls to get at it,” said Realtor Eileen Chaladoff with Prudential Associates Real Estate in East Stroudsburg.

It’s a growing problem that consumes a lot of manpower, according to state police Trooper Shaun Flynn of the Lehighton barracks.

“We’ve had quite a bit of burglaries, vandalism. I have seen a couple where they go in and spray the entire house,” he said. “A month or two ago, I had two juveniles just hanging out. A lot of these homes still have furniture in them.”

“We’ve had quite a bit,” he said of the break-ins at abandoned homes. “It’s been a problem for quite a while.” [read more]

Sep 17

By Michael P. Kearns – The Buffalo News

The “Bank Shame Campaign” started in Buffalo, moved to West Seneca and Lackawanna and has now reached Orchard Park.

This campaign entails placing a sign on incompletely foreclosed properties in order to draw attention to this national crisis and be a catalyst for change. On Sept. 4 I placed the third “Bank Shame Campaign” sign at 94 Elm St. in the City of Lackawanna.

At 94 Elm, the mess that is being left behind by Chase Manhattan Bank and Bank REO Servicing LLC is getting cleaned up and handled by the neighbors on either side of this home. What underscores the mess occurring physically at 94 Elm is that both banks have filed “lis pendens” paperwork to foreclose on the property, when only one is technically allowed to do so.

The reason for the confusion is that the banks try to duck responsibility for upkeep and maintenance by assigning the mortgage to other banks, after the borrower has defaulted on the loan and stopped making payments.

This leaves the community lost in trying to find out who to call to take care of rats and other vermin, overgrown weeds, overgrown bushes and in some instances squatters or vagrants who enter the premises. [read more]

Sep 16

By Ann Carrns – The New York Times

Federal consumer regulators on Wednesday announced an enforcement action against two big debt-buying companies for using deceptive tactics to collect delinquent accounts.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered the companies, the Encore Capital Group and Portfolio Recovery Associates, to pay a combined $79 million in refunds and penalties, to stop collections on debts totaling $128 million and to change their debt collection practices.

The bureau said the companies bought the rights to collect debts that were potentially inaccurate, lacked documentation or were legally unenforceable, and tried to collect the money without verifying the debt. The bureau said the companies pressured borrowers to pay with false statements, with lawsuits and with the use of so-called robo-signed court documents.

Encore must pay $42 million in consumer refunds and a $10 million penalty and must stop collections on debts totaling more than $125 million.

Encore Capital’s chief executive, Kenneth A. Vecchione, said in a statement that the company had already made changes, even though it disagreed that its practices were improper. This bureau’s action, he said, is “about the C.F.P.B. subjecting companies to its own interpretations that have never been codified or adopted.”

Portfolio Recovery must pay $19 million in refunds and an $8 million penalty, and stop collections on more than $3 million in debt. The company said in a statement that it had settled to avoid costly litigation. [read more]

Sep 8

By ABC News

I haven’t talked to my former roommate Patti in years. But it only took Bill Bartmann, a veteran of the debt collection industry, minutes to pull up her name and the address of the house we shared in the early 1990s.

Less than a day after I asked Bartmann to see what he could find about me, he provided me with a long list of the addresses of places I’d lived over the years — including my college dorm address, which I would be very hard pressed to recall myself. He also dug up a list of relatives and details about them, including my husband and father’s ages and first five digits of their Social Security numbers; and former neighbors (some of whom I’d never met), along with their ages, first of their SSNs and their phone numbers.

He found all this using nothing more than my name, and the information was spot on. Even if you wanted to try to hide from debt collectors, it would be nearly impossible to do so.

“Every piece of data you can imagine, even your phone records, watch out — we got it,” says Alexis Moore, a debt collection investigator and industry consultant. Most people “have no clue how cyberspace has made it simple as a click of the mouse to find anyone anywhere at anytime,” she adds.

If debt collectors want to find you, they have many tools at their disposal. If they can’t locate you, or want to learn more about your ability to pay a debt, they can turn to “skip tracing” tools as they are called in the industry. What are some of the ways they do this? [read more]

Sep 4

By Jason Notte – The Street

Foreclosures aren’t as big a part of the housing market as they were just after the recession, but they’re still a huge portion of homes sold across the U.S.

Housing data site RealtyTrac found that sales of properties in-foreclosure are down from a year ago to multi-year lows while year-to-date U.S. home sales in 2015 are at an eight-year high. The sale of properties sold while in the foreclosure process (not including bank-owned properties) accounted for 6.4% of all single family and condo sales in July, down from 6.6% of all sales in June and down from 8.0% in July 2014 to the lowest monthly share since January 2000 — the earliest that data is available.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors found that distressed properties — including both foreclosures and short sales — declined to 7% of all homes in July from 8% in June and 9% a year ago. Some 5% of July sales were foreclosures, and 2% were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 17% below market value in July (15% in June), while short sales were discounted 12% (18% in June). Comparatively speaking, that isn’t such a bad thing.

“Five years ago, distressed sales represented 33% of the market in July,” says Chris Polychron, president of the National Association of Realtors and executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., “For many previously distressed homeowners throughout the country, rising home values in recent years have helped recover equity and the vast improvement in several local job markets means fewer are falling behind on their mortgage payments.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean everything is going extraordinarily well. The U.S. median existing home sales price in July was $235,500, up 5.8% from a year earlier. While there are fewer all-cash sales driving that rising price, there are still reasons to proceed with caution. [read more]

Sep 3

By Jack Newsham – The Boston Globe

The number of foreclosure filings in Massachusetts rose 49 percent from July 2014 to July 2015 as lenders continue to clear a foreclosure backlog caused by regulatory changes, according to a Boston real estate tracker.

The Warren Group said Wednesday that lenders filed foreclosure documents on 1,044 homes in Massachusetts in July, compared to 702 filed the same month in 2014. The increase was in line with those recorded in previous months; in the first seven months of the year, initial foreclosure filings rose 60 percent over the total recorded during the same period last year.

“While these numbers are higher relative to last year, the steady increase does not yet represent a cause for alarm,” said Cassidy Murphy, the editorial director of the Warren Group, which publishes trade journals like Banker & Tradesman.

Not all foreclosure starts result in homeowners losing their homes, but the number of completed foreclosures has also risen. The 386 completed foreclosures recorded in July was a 77 percent increase over July 2014’s total of 218. Year-to-date, the number of completed foreclosures in Massachusetts has risen 27 percent, hitting 2,416, according to the Warren Group. [read more]