The Shadow Inventory: What Banks are Hiding in the California Real Estate Market

As I wrote yesterdays Blog update I knew that what I had been seeing first hand in the California Real Estate Market was something that has never been seen before. Not even in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the last time we saw the real estate market crash did we see such a devastation of the real estate market as it is manifesting today.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s we didn’t have government intervention under the guise of compassion, meddling in the housing or banking markets. Back then the Market was allowed to work and by virtue of no intervention, the market took care of the bubble that burst.

Sure we were in a deep recession, unemployment was at 17%, inflation was out of control, interest rates hit all time highs and credit was tight, but back then there was NOT a shadow inventory of foreclosures to exacerbate matters. Back then the rules were simple. When you were 90 days behind on a payment you were in foreclosure and if the mortgage remained unpaid a notice of default was sent out and the house went up for auction. As such, the house became a part of the general real estate market and landscape and was liquidated.

Did real estate values drop? Yes, but the market was allowed to do its job and the market absorbed them and there was no protracted and artificial “shadow inventory” of houses that no one knew about.

So what is this “shadow inventory” of houses that everyone refers to? The conventional definition is simple and refers to the houses that are technically in default (meaning mortgages that are 90 days past due), but no notice of default has been issued by the bank and as such no auction date has been set.

Today there are actually two “shadow inventories” that are dooming the Stockton Real Estate market to a protracted recovery.

Shadow Inventory I: This is the “Shadow inventory” that everyone refers to in today’s housing market. They are the houses that have yet to be foreclosed upon. These are the houses that the banks have not collected a mortgage on for upwards of 36 months. Since the banks have not yet foreclosed on these houses they are sitting as an unknown number of houses that have yet to reenter the market place. As such they are either being lived in rent free by the current mortgage holder or a renter that is paying the Mortgage holder while the mortgage goes unpaid.

This is all occurring, thanks to “new and more compassionate government policies” that some would call government intervention and manipulation that has virtually changed the banking rules. These new rules have made it easier for banks to hide unpaid mortgages on their books, and since Banks are not required to foreclose according to any particular time frame, that means that they can carry unpaid mortgages apparently as long as they chose to do so. As a result, the market cannot deal with this inventory until the bank actually forecloses and acknowledges the bad debt.

Shadow Inventory II: The second “shadow inventory” that no one is talking about are all of the houses that have been foreclosed upon but have dropped out of the market because they did not sell. Every month, I see hundreds of withdrawn or expired listings of Stockton real estate that is Bank owned that have disappeared from the real estate market. The only reminder that these houses exist is denoted at the bottom of a comparable market analysis while attempting to research another property in the neighborhood.

In the Stockton Real Estate Market alone there are hundreds of these houses that have been foreclosed upon, that have not been sold and are NOT currently listed for sale by the Bank directly or in the Realtors Multiple listing Service. Most of them are vacant, boarded up and in such a state of disrepair that they make up a huge second “shadow inventory” and they are contributing to dropping home values in Stockton.

It is estimated that Americans have lost close to $7 Trillion in home values and equity over the past four years and I don’t expect that we have hit the bottom. While many are projecting a real estate recovery in 2012, I don’t believe it so long as the supply of foreclosed properties is hidden and excluded from the market itself.

Brace yourself as home prices in Stockton Real Estate will continue to tumble.

Peter Westbrook is the owner of Westbrook Real Estate Investments and can be reached at 209-481-7780

At “Westbrook REI” and “I Buy Houses Stockton“, we are the best at what we do because we work at it every day. We understand that a commitment to customer and a commitment to our business only happens with hard work. We have years of experience and a plan that we follow. We are a real company with real people that are committed to helping you achieve your goals.

We buy houses in Stockton, CA and its surrounding areas in Lodi, Woodbridge, Acampo, Lockeford, Linden, Ripon, Manteca, Modesto, Ceres, Tracy and Sacramento CA. If you need to sell your house fast in [market], call us… we’d love to make you a fair no-obligation no-hassle offer. Take it or leave it. You’ve got nothing to lose, but we’d love to earn your business. 🙂

Peter Westbrook

About Peter Westbrook

Peter Westbrook is a local Cash Home Buyer / Real Estate Investor in Stockton, Sacramento and Modesto CA and Tulsa Oklahoma. He has written numerous real estate articles that have been published here and by other blog and news outlets. Peter has appeared on several local and national news reports regarding the state of the Stockton and Sacramento Real Estate Markets.

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