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Thursday, 30 June 2011

Tsunami of repossessions, home prices declined in UK & US !

Bank chief warns of wave of home repossessions if rates rise

UKAR chief presiding over £80bn of bailed-out mortgages says 'tough love' would be fairer on those struggling with payments
  • Jill Treanor
UKAR chief Richard Banks has warned that mass home repossessions could follow any interest rate rise Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

Britain is facing a 'tsunami' of house repossessions as soon as interest rates start to rise, one of the country's leading bankers has warned.

Richard Banks, the chief executive of UK Asset Resolution (UKAR), the body that runs the £80bn of mortgages bailed out by the taxpayer during the banking crisis, also said in an interview with the Guardian that the Labour government's pleas at the start of the crisis for lenders to keep families in their homes was forcing some homeowners further into debt.

In a warning that the industry may have been too lenient with some of its customers, he said he believed a policy of "tough love" would be fairer to people facing long-term difficulty in keeping up payments on loans taken out when house prices were at their peak and personal incomes on the rise.

His warning came the day after the international bank regulator said the Bank of England, which has kept rates at 0.5% for more than two years, would have to raise rates shortly to curb inflation.

The Bank of International Settlements said the policy of the Bank of England, whose rate-setting committee is split over whether or not to increase borrowing costs, was "unsustainable".

With 750,000 customers, UK Asset Resolution, set up to run the nationalised mortgages of Bradford & Bingley and parts of Northern Rock, is the country's fifth largest mortgage lender. But 23,000 of those mortgage holders are more than six months behind with payments and Banks admitted the projections for the number of people falling behind on payments could get "scary" if lenders did nothing to prepare for higher rates.

"You can see if you don't do something about it, you can see a tsunami," he said. "If you don't get into the hills you could get drowned by this. If you don't manage this properly it could get very messy."

He regards it is an industry-wide problem, albeit one that might be concentrated at UKAR as its customers include buy-to-let landlords and so-called self-certified borrowers – those without salaried income. UKAR, through three calls centres in Crossflatts, West Yorkshire, Gosforth, Newcastle, and Doxford, Sunderland, has begun cold-calling customers it believes are at risk of falling behind on payments in an attempt to keep their mortgage payments on schedule.

The bank is also trying to tackle customers behind with payments for six months or more and at risk of repossession.

His concern about a surge in repossessions is partly the result of moves by the industry early in the 2008 crisis to grant so-called forbearance to help customers stay in homes by, for example, reducing monthly interest payments. "We as an industry, as a kneejerk reaction in the emergence of the crisis, and because the government asked us to be forbearing to customers in the hope it would all go away, we have been too lenient with some customers.

"It's a tough love approach," he said. "It's treating customers fairly, not nicely, because if you can't afford your mortgage you are only increasing your indebtedness. If we allow you to increase your indebtedness, that's not really fair to you."

This month the Council of Mortgage Lenders forecast a rise in repossessions from 40,000 this year to 45,000 next. This figure would still remain well below the 75,500 peak of 1991. The remarks by Banks follow a warning last week from the new regulator set up to spot financial risks in the system – the Financial Policy Committee (FPC) inside the Bank of Englandthat warned banks may be providing a "misleading picture of their financial health" if they were not making big enough provisions for borrowers in difficulty.

Forbearance has been brought into play in up to 12% of mortgages, the FPC said.

It also noted that the most "vulnerable" households were concentrated in a few banks. It did not scrutinise UKAR but noted that the two other bailed-out banks, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland, had the largest exposure to customers whose mortgages were bigger than their value of their homes.

Last month, the Financial Services Authority issued a guide to handling forbearance in which it warned: "Arrears and forbearance support provided with due care by firms has a beneficial impact for both the firm and the customer … However, where such support is provided without due care or any knowledge or understanding of the impacts, it has potentially adverse implications for the customer, for the firm's understanding of the risks inherent within its lending book, and in turn for the regulators and the market."

House prices down in England and Wales

LONDON: House prices in England and Wales have edged lower this month to show their biggest annual fall since October 2009, a monthly survey from property data company Hometrack showed on Monday.
Average house prices dropped by 0.1% in June, continuing a pattern of modest falls so far this year and taking the year-on-year decline to 3.9%.

Other house price surveys have shown similar price falls over the past 12 months. Prices dropped by around 20% during the financial crisis, but partly recovered in early 2010.
Hometrack's director of research Richard Donnell said that the property market had been less weak so far this year than he had expected.

A general view of houses in Grange Villa, England. — AP
“Low transaction volumes, low mortgage rates and forbearance by lenders limiting the number of forced sales have all played their part. While average prices have slipped back by 1%, sales volumes have increased off the back of higher demand and greater realism over achievable prices,” he said.

House prices are under pressure from slow wage growth and lenders' preference for much higher mortgage deposits than before the financial crisis.

Hometrack's data is based on a monthly survey of estate agents and surveyors, asking for average achievable prices for different categories of property. - Reuters

Home Prices in 20 U.S. Cities Probably Declined in April From Year Earlier

Home Prices in U.S. Cities Fell 4% in April from Year Ago
Home prices probably decreased in April, showing the housing market remains an obstacle for the U.S. recovery, economists said before a report today.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities fell 4 percent from April 2010, the biggest year-over-year drop since November 2009, according to the median forecast of 30 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Other data may show consumer confidence held near a six-month low.

A backlog of foreclosures and falling sales indicate prices may decline further, discouraging builders from taking on new projects. The drop in property values and a jobless rate hovering around 9 percent are holding back consumer sentiment and spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy.

“Home prices remain incredibly bogged down by foreclosures and weak demand,” said Sean Incremona, a senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York. “The picture is unlikely to change much this year. Declining home prices and high unemployment are bad for confidence.”

The S&P/Case-Shiller index, based on a three-month average, is due at 9 a.m. New York time. Survey estimates ranged from declines of 4.9 percent to 3.5 percent. Values fell 3.6 percent in the 12 months to March.

The New York-based Conference Board’s consumer confidence gauge, due at 10 a.m., rose to 61 from 60.8 in May, according to the Bloomberg survey median. Estimates ranged from 55 to 66.7.

Fuel Costs

Some of the improvement probably reflects a drop in fuel costs. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline fell to $3.57 on June 26, down from a May 4 price of $3.99 that was the highest in almost three years, according to AAA, the nation’s largest auto club.

The projected rise in confidence contrasts with other surveys in which Americans’ moods dimmed. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort index dropped in the week ended June 19, the first decline in five weeks, and the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan sentiment gauge fell more than forecast this month.

The Case-Shiller report may show home prices fell 0.2 percent in April from the prior month after adjusting for seasonal variations, the 10th straight decrease, according to the Bloomberg survey.

The year-over-year gauges provide better indications of trends in prices, the group has said. The panel includes Karl Case and Robert Shiller, the economists who created the index.

Shiller told a conference in New York this month that a further decline in property values of 10 percent to 25 percent in the next five years “wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

Fewer Sales

Reports earlier this month showed the housing market is yet to gain momentum. Sales of previously owned homes, which comprise about 94 percent of the market, were down 3.8 percent last month from April, the National Association of Realtors said.

Purchases of new houses dropped 2.1 percent in May, the first decline in three months, according to Commerce Department data. Competition from foreclosed homes is hurting demand for newly built dwellings.

The 1.8 million-unit inventory of distressed homes nationwide that may reach the market would take about three years to sell at the current pace, Daren Blomquist, communications manager at RealtyTrac Inc., said this month.

As house prices decline, owners feel less wealthy and home equity shrinks, making borrowing more difficult.

The Standard & Poor’s Supercomposite Homebuilding index lost 4.4 percent as of June 27 from the end of April, less than a 6.1 percent drop in the broader S&P 500 gauge, which was weighed down largely by concern about the European debt crisis.

Builder Outlook

Some developers expect demand to stabilize following a poor selling season. Lennar Corp. (LEN), the third-largest U.S. homebuilder by revenue, last week said second-quarter sales fell from a year earlier and home orders were little changed, while the average price climbed. The 2010 orders were boosted by a federal tax credit for homebuyers that required contracts be signed by April 30.

“While it’s now well documented that the expected spring selling season of 2011 simply did not materialize, it is beginning to feel like the worst days of the housing market are getting behind us,” Chief Executive Officer Stuart Miller said during a conference call with analysts on June 23.
Bloomberg Survey

Case Shiller Cons. Conf
MOM% YOY% Index

Date of Release 06/28 06/28 06/28
Observation Period April April June
Median -0.2% -4.0% 61.0
Average -0.2% -4.0% 61.0
High Forecast 0.4% -3.5% 66.7
Low Forecast -0.5% -4.9% 55.0
Number of Participants 17 30 70
Previous -0.2% -3.6% 60.8
4CAST Ltd. --- -4.1% 61.5
ABN Amro Inc. -0.1% --- 61.0
Action Economics --- --- 63.0
Aletti Gestielle SGR --- --- 60.0
Ameriprise Financial Inc --- --- 61.5
Banesto --- -4.1% 61.7
Bank of Tokyo- Mitsubishi --- --- 59.0
Bantleon Bank AG --- --- 60.0
Bayerische Landesbank --- -4.0% 62.0
BBVA --- -3.9% 60.8
BMO Capital Markets --- -4.4% 62.0
BNP Paribas --- --- 58.0
BofA Merrill Lynch Resear --- -3.9% 61.0 --- -3.8% 59.0
Capital Economics -0.4% -4.1% 65.0
CIBC World Markets --- -4.2% 62.5
Citi --- --- 61.0
Commerzbank AG --- -4.0% 60.0
Credit Agricole CIB --- --- 62.0
Credit Suisse --- -3.8% 55.0
Daiwa Securities America --- --- 62.0
DekaBank --- --- 61.5
Desjardins Group --- -3.9% 61.0
Deutsche Bank Securities --- --- 62.0
Exane --- --- 61.5
Fact & Opinion Economics --- -3.5% 59.0
First Trust Advisors --- --- 59.9
FTN Financial --- --- 60.0
Helaba --- --- 60.0
HSBC Markets -0.2% -3.9% 60.0
Hugh Johnson Advisors --- --- 60.5
IDEAglobal --- -4.0% 60.0
IHS Global Insight --- -3.9% 61.0
Informa Global Markets --- --- 61.0
ING Financial Markets -0.2% -3.9% 63.0
Insight Economics --- -3.9% 59.0
Intesa-SanPaulo --- --- 63.0
J.P. Morgan Chase -0.1% -3.8% 60.5
Janney Montgomery Scott L -0.3% -4.8% 62.0
Jefferies & Co. --- --- 62.0
Landesbank Berlin --- --- 58.0
Manulife Asset Management --- --- 61.0
Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc --- --- 62.5
MF Global -0.5% -4.2% 60.5
Moody’s Analytics --- --- 59.0
Morgan Stanley & Co. --- --- 64.0
Natixis --- -4.0% 61.0
Nomura Securities Intl. --- -3.9% 59.8
Nord/LB --- --- 60.0
Parthenon Group -0.4% --- 59.7
Pierpont Securities LLC --- --- 64.0
PineBridge Investments 0.4% --- 61.5
Raiffeisenbank Internatio --- --- 62.0
RBC Capital Markets --- --- 62.0
RBS Securities Inc. --- --- 59.5
Scotia Capital --- --- 59.0
SMBC Nikko Securities -0.1% -3.8% 63.0
Societe Generale -0.2% --- 66.7
Standard Chartered -0.3% -4.8% 61.0
State Street Global Marke 0.1% -3.6% 60.1
Stone & McCarthy Research --- --- 62.5
TD Securities -0.5% --- 60.0
UBS -0.2% -3.9% 62.0
UniCredit Research --- -4.0% 61.0
Union Investment --- --- 61.8
University of Maryland -0.4% -4.1% 60.0
Wells Fargo & Co. --- --- 59.3
WestLB AG --- -4.9% 60.5
Westpac Banking Co. --- --- 60.5
Wrightson ICAP 0.0% --- 63.0
To contact the reporter on this story: Shobhana Chandra in Washington at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at