It seems that mortgage lenders are actually finally dealing with South Florida’s disastrous housing situation. Today, the region ranks as one of the top metro areas vis-à-vis mortgage modifications. Ever since the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) began back in 2009, a staggering 46,032 trial/permanent modifications have been approved in the following counties to date: Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach.
But the question is, what’s the fine print? Do these modifications really help, and, if so, how much? Over 92,000 have been attempted in South Florida, which indicates that approximately 50 percent of them have failed. Still, that means half have worked and since before the settlement was established one could only pay lower interest rates and add years on to the mortgage in a modification, today, there are more choices, which ultimately provide much better relief as lenders are offering more realistic and helpful assistance to homeowners, such as mortgage balance forgiveness.
What this means is, that homeowners become more motivated. They see that they are being offered something real – the loan modification is going to actually help them. One example was of a lender “forgiving” $112,000 in principal for a client who was paying approximately $4,000 per month on an underwater mortgage (whereby the property is worth less than what they are repaying). As well, a slashing of bank interest rates from 7 to 2 percent, reduced the monthly payments further to $2,300.
It thus looks like there is a far greater grasp of reality on what people can afford which seems to be the most sensible way of assisting the present housing crisis in South Florida.
After months – nay years – of far-from-positive news on the Florida housing front, it seems that there is something to smile about now for those navigating the South Florida housing market. Maybe the crash will now – slowly at first – start to end. Experts cannot say how long it will take for things to really turn around and there are likely to be some hiccups on the way, but the general feeling is that the bad news is about to end. And, for those looking for more information, they should have made sure they were in attendance at the South Florida Housing Summit.
Why Good News?
So why the optimism? First, there are less resale inventory since buyers are increasingly purchasing smaller properties at cheaper prices in the Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach areas. Second, the properties now owned by banks in South Florida only account for less than 22 percent of the close to 42,000 residences which is a drop from over 100,000 properties that were on the market at the end of 2008.
In addition, there are already plans for the construction of a further 24 condo towers comprising 4,500 units in the tri-county region even though there is not nearly enough funding for construction available. As Melanie Dawn recently tweeted, “low home prices begin looking up in South Florida.”
Resale Price Escalation
According to figures from the Florida Association of Realtors, in January 2012, there was a 13 percent increase in resale prices for single-family units in Miami-Dade County compared to the figure for the same time frame in 2011.
Of course, it has to be recognized that this could just be a blip, but if there are further increases in February and March this would show a stability in rising home prices for a longer stretch than it has encountered since February 2007. It seems that house prices are increasing, in part due to the rising interest of international buyers.