Housing Recovery Consistently Inconsistent

Larry Martel was a TV news reporter at KPHO Television, the CBS affiliate in Phoenix.  I worked with him there as a photojournalist for about 10 years.  Larry was a wordsmith and his timing was impeccable.  He was “telling it like it is” long before the station started using that tag line in all of their local promotions.  I didn’t work with him side by side very often because we were on different schedules.  However, I would hear about his colorful comments from fellow photojournalists, reporters and news anchors.

In 1990, the Interstate 10 deck park tunnel opened up.  Larry was asked to report live and describe the scene to our viewing audience.  The tunnel walls were lined with small white tiles from the guard rail all the way up to the ceiling.  He accurately explained that it looked like “the world’s largest men’s room!”  During another live appearance from the site of a rattlesnake removal operation Larry told our viewers that these critters would “no longer have a pit to hiss in.”  The news anchors on set were laughing so uncontrollably that the director had to run an unscheduled commercial break.

Larry once told me that the KPHO news department was “consistently inconsistent.”  We would never earn ratings supremacy because internally we lacked leadership and planning.  As I sit here today and try to make sense of Bank of America’s 50 state foreclosure moratorium and Arizona joining other states in a probe of the mortgage industry I can’t help but compare our newsroom woes to the foreclosure crisis of 2010.

Uncertainty of any kind generally paralyzes people – especially if they have to make decision that involves money.  Toyota is a perfect example.  After decades of selling reliable, economical cars their sales plummeted when faulty brake pedals forced them to make numerous recalls.  The problems have been corrected but Toyota’s sales are still struggling because the public remains uncertain.

Homebuyers on the fence may likely stay there now.  Fear, and a news media that seems to enjoy promoting the idea that anyone who buys a foreclosed home today may have to give it back to the original owner in 3-5 years after all this plays out in the courts, could bring any hope of further recovery to a dead stop.

There don’t seem to be any simple solutions.  But this much I do know for certain – the homeowner in foreclosure borrowed the money to buy the house – the homeowner in foreclosure hasn’t made a payment in at least six months, probably more AND the homeowner agreed contractually (even if the bank can’t find the contract) to surrender the home if default occurred.  In the end this fact, above all else, should trump whatever irresponsible, reprehensible and unorganized system the big bad bank used to initiate the foreclosure proceedings.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I believe the banks should be held accountable and severely penalized for their misconduct.  I just don’t think they should stop foreclosing on homeowners because these self-imposed moratoriums prolong the inevitable and hurt everyone.  Mix together the creation of the homebuyer tax credit, the extension of the tax credit, the expiry of the tax credit, the sporadic lowering of interest rates and now the foreclosure moratorium and the result is a housing market recovery that is consistently inconsistent.

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