The Real Estate News Brief: Home Equity Rises, Zombie Foreclosures Fall, Flippers’ Hunt for Homes


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In this Real Estate News Brief for the week ending September 11th, 2021... a record high for home equity, a drop in Zombie foreclosures, and the house flippers’ hunt for homes.

Hi, I'm Kathy Fettke and this is Real Estate News for Investors. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a review.

Economic News

We begin with economic news from this past week. It was a short week because of Labor Day, with not much economic news after that. The weekly unemployment report shows that initial state claims fell to a new pandemic low of 310,000. The average number of claims before the pandemic was just 90,000 less, at 220,000 per week. (1)

Continuing claims were also down to almost 12 million for state benefits and 7 other state and federal programs. That number had risen above 30 million during the pandemic.

Last week was also the last full week for many of those benefits. Bank of the West chief economist estimates that 7.5 million people will drop off the unemployment list, and another 3 million will see their benefits cut by $300 a week.

Economists are watching to see if the loss of benefits sends more people back to work, and helps ease the worker shortage that many companies are experiencing. They are also expecting a possible rise in claims because of Hurricane Ida.

And there are plenty of jobs available. The Labor Department reported an all-time high of 10.9 million job openings in July. It’s the fifth month in a row that job openings broke that record. (2)

Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates are still idling below 3%. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was up just 1 basis point last week, to 2.88%. The 15-year was also up 1 basis point, to 2.19%. Freddie Mac chief economist, Sam Khater, blames it on the current wave of new COVID cases. He says it led to “weaker employment, lower spending and declining consumer confidence.” But he says that lower rates are also giving consumers “more time to find the homes they are looking to purchase.” (3)

In other news making headlines...

New Home Equity Record

Homeowners are reaping the benefits of higher home values. Black Knight says that housing equity has hit a new record high after surging 40% compared to a year ago. It analyzes equity among mortgage holders, and says the average mortgage holder now has $173,000 in equity. That’s up about $20,000 from the first quarter of this year. (4)

Black Knight Data Analyst, Ben Graboske, says recent growth is the strongest growth he’s ever seen. He also says 98% of the homeowners who are in forbearance have at least 10% equity in their homes. That should help them avoid foreclosure, as foreclosure moratoriums are lifted.

Zombie Foreclosures Nearly Non-Existent

Higher levels of home equity, along with the moratoriums, have led to a big drop in zombie foreclosures. That’s when a foreclosure process stalls after a homeowner defaults on mortgage payments and abandons the home. The house ends up sitting vacant, in foreclosure limbo. (5)

A report from ATTOM Data Solutions on third-quarter vacant properties and zombie foreclosures shows that 1.3 million homes are vacant in the U.S. That’s about 1 in every 74 homes. The number of homes that have fallen into zombie status is just 1 in every 13,000 homes for a total of about 7,500 homes.

ATTOM’S chief product officer, Todd Teta, says: “Vacant properties in foreclosure, and the resulting potential for neighborhood decay, continue to be a non-issue overall in most of the country.” He says: “But that could easily change over the coming months as lenders are now free to take back properties from delinquent homeowners.” He says the foreclosure issue will depend on individual banks, and how aggressively they pursue foreclosures once the moratoriums are gone.

Fixer-Upper Homes Are Scarce

Will we see more inventory in the near future as the housing market adjusts to a post-pandemic economy? Right now, it’s tough on house flippers and businesses that rely on renovating older homes and foreclosures. There’s inventory out there but the competition is tough.

According to an ATTOM report, just 2.7% of homes sales were flips during the first quarter of this year. (6) That’s the lowest percentage of flips in about 20 years. House renovator, Ed Stock, told the Wall Street Journal that he expects to do just 15 flips this year. In 2014, at the height of the foreclosure crisis, he did 53 flips. He says: “Investors like me, we’re like ants on a sugar hill all fighting for the same projects.”

It is possible to find inventory however. And it’s a whole lot easier when you are part of an investing network, like RealWealth. As a member of our network, you have access to the Investor Portal where you can view sample property pro-formas and connect with our network of resources, including experienced investment counselors, property teams, lenders, 1031 exchange facilitators, attorneys, CPAs and more. It’s free to join at, and free to make use of our resources.

That’s it for today. Check the show notes for links. And please remember to hit the subscribe button, and leave a review!

Thanks for listening. I'm Kathy Fettke.


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