If there was one major takeaway from the National Crime Prevention Council’s 2013 Mortgage Fraud Virtual Conference, it was this: The mortgage market, while no longer a wicked stepchild of the housing crisis, must still be carefully monitored. Though its tantrum-throwing days may be over, the $1.1 trillion government loan industry has the potential to cause serious economic damage should fraudulent mortgage activity persist unchecked.
“What is old is new again,” says Michael Stolworthy, Director of Fraud Prevention for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “We’re starting to see some disturbing trends. The same old type of mortgage cases are coming up.”
False statements on loan applications, inflated appraisals, and loan modification schemes are just some of the ways fraud is reappearing in the mortgage market. And with government loans on the rise—the number of mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration has nearly doubled since 2006—the potential for mortgage fraud increases, especially among applicants in shaky financial condition.
“Back during the mortgage boom, people who had taken out second and third mortgages were living the champagne lifestyle on a beer budget,” says Robert Simken, a former real estate practitioner turned police officer in Eustis, Fla. “Now, those same people are living in homes that are underwater and willing to do just about anything to get out of their bind.”
Problems arise when that “anything” includes turning to loan counselors, lenders, and alleged real estate professionals who make promises they never plan to keep. “If an opportunity comes along that seems too good to be true and the little hairs on your neck stick up and say ‘danger,’ don’t just ignore them,” Simken warns.
Through public outreach campaigns and educational seminars, organizations like the National Crime Prevention Council stress the importance of using an accredited real estate professional when contemplating any property transaction. “Half the people haven’t checked the qualifications of the individual helping them buy a home,” says Ann Harkins, CEO and President of NCPC.
Simkens agrees that home owners should seek advice from a noted professional. “You don’t go to the butcher for brain surgery and you don’t go to a brain surgeon for chopped meat,” he says. “It’s important to find an expert and not just someone who shows up and can recite the jargon.” Continue reading »
At a briefing during the group’s annual conference, NAHB Vice President of Survey and Housing Policy Research Paul Emrath was upbeat about the recovery of housing targeted toward seniors and baby boomers. He noted in particular that builder confidence in new, single family homes in the 55-plus market tripled in the third quarter of 2012 as compared to the same time in 2011.
“Everything is up, year-over-year,” Emrath said. “It’s an indication that we’re starting to dig out of the hole we fell into in 2009.”
In NAHB’s forecast, boomers and seniors are projected to grow their share of the market over the next few years. By 2020, the group expects the market share of U.S. households in the 55-plus age bracket to grow more than four percent, to 46.6 percent.
Yet Emrath warned that the future of NAHB’s reporting on boomer and senior markets is in peril because the Census Bureau changed the way that they collect generational information.
“The forecast that you just saw is at risk right now,” Emrath said. “When I get back to Washington, I’m going to spend a lot of time writing letters trying to persuade [HUD and the Census Bureau] that they were misguided in removing these 55-plus questions from their surveys.”
In addition to the economic data, Emrath hit a few of the boomer and senior highlights of NAHB’s new consumer preference survey, called What Home Buyers Really Want. Continue reading »