Metro Atlanta foreclosure notices fall in December, but annual record set

Foreclosure notices in metro Atlanta fell 30 percent in December from a record level in November, according to data released Monday by Equity Depot.

Barry Bramlett

Barry Bramlett

For all of 2010, a new record of 127,140 notices was set, eclipsing last year’s record by 8.6 percent, Equity Depot said. Foreclosure notices this year were 60 percent greater than they were in 2008.

“With decreased property values and continued high unemployment in Georgia, it’s hard to forecast any decline for 2011,” Barry Bramlett, president of Alpharetta-based Equity Depot, said in an email to the AJC.

Foreclosure notices of sale published this month are for auctions set for next month.

For December, there were 9,703 notices in the metro area. That’s down from November’s record of 13,834, but still very high.

It may be instructive to look at the entire fourth quarter of the year for a more accurate picture of what’s been happening lately. That’s because one month’s numbers may be artificially distorted since some lenders imposed a short moratorium on foreclosures to investigate internal paperwork problems.

For the fourth quarter, notices were up 18 percent when compared with the same period last year.

For all of 2010, Gwinnett surpassed Fulton as the leading county for foreclosure actions in Georgia with 26,502 notices, Equity Depot said.

Fulton ended up with 24,446 notices, followed by DeKalb with 19,307. Cobb was fourth with 15,000 notices, followed by Clayton with 10,451.

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

53 comments Add your comment

GaNative

December 13th, 2010
5:21 am

It’s good to see that people are finally pointing to the lack of jobs as the reason for foreclosures instead of saying people bought houses they could not afford.

Beck

December 13th, 2010
5:44 am

People did buy houses they couldn’t afford, but the rest of the recession and the unemployment rate is hurting those who did everything “correctly” as well.

Percy

December 13th, 2010
7:14 am

It’s my understanding that we are only one third through the current housing reccession in the Metro Atlanta area. How this surplus of housing gets back on active tax rolls must be adressed ASAP in order for our Metro area municipalities/ Boards of Education to survive.

WDE

December 13th, 2010
7:35 am

GA Native, Unemployment is a cause, but buying more house than a person could afford is also the cause. The subprime loans were the main reason we have this mess. The crackdown on these loans is also making it harder for responsible people with good credit to struggle to get a loan now. Not everyone should be a homeowner and Barney Frank & company put enough pressure on the banks to give loans to people who should have never had them. Of course, the banks enjoyed the ride also. Political correctness might be the undoing of this country.

Toby

December 13th, 2010
7:40 am

Anyone that thinks the Gov. can pressure a bank into doing anything hasen’t been paying attention.

Economics

December 13th, 2010
7:44 am

It will get worse before it gets better, much worse!

Flying South

December 13th, 2010
8:13 am

But wait, Obama and the media say everything is wonderful…..

Gonna get worse, much worse. When reality hits wall street, main street will really begin hit dixie.

I am glad I paid my house off in 1999 before I was 40 :)

I planned on this bust, did U?

Hello

December 13th, 2010
8:16 am

So the banks had record profits, paid major bonuses, all the while lending money irresponsibly. We bail them out and they thanks us by sitting on the money we lent them. Now they’ve decided to lend again but you must have a credit score in high 700’s and 50% of what you want to borrow in liquid investments. The banks are the problem here and nothing will improve with them at the helm.

To Toby

December 13th, 2010
8:21 am

It looks like you have not been paying attention and have no clue about the banking industry. You must have been reading the National Enquirer and listening to the Today Show.

Observer

December 13th, 2010
8:28 am

The banks foreclose to use any equity to write down their TARP payments. That is why they only want to modify mortgages that are underwater.

Obama was supposed to pay for my mortgage and a new car made by General Motors.

To Flying South

December 13th, 2010
8:31 am

I paid cash for my house which I bought in foreclosure. However, the problem is going to happen as we see our purchasing power erode-one of the main reasons we see gasoline prices increase. Think about when the unemployed have exhausted their 4 years of unemployment benefits. When the teachers, firefighters, police decide they want to retire to their defined benefit plans. Then your taxes on your house and car are going to skyrocket.That is when it is really going to get fun.

Buzz g

December 13th, 2010
8:53 am

For 30 years I listened to liberals complain about lack of “affordable housing. Well, now they have it and responsible people will be paying the price for a long time.

Girly

December 13th, 2010
9:03 am

When things go wrong it’s very easy to begin pointing fingers. There are so many factors that have led to the housing/foreclosure crisis, not just one. People who bought more house than they could afford would have probably lost it anyway regardless of what happened regionally and nationally, but that would not have stopped lenders, builders, real estate professionals from lining their pockets and riding the housing development wave, or the economy to go south, or for companies to stop hiring or going bankrupt. Be thankful that you are in your house, have good credit, and your life is perfect because you did everything right.

Excellent Credit

December 13th, 2010
9:12 am

I’m in a very odd predicament and I wonder just how many others are out there in same situation as I. During my divorce (5 years ago) I agreed to relocate and my (ex) husband buy me out for my share of the house, (still making payment to me). I was a joint signer on both mortgages and he agreed to protect my credit and make the mortgage payment(s). He can’t refinance just on his credit alone due to his poor credit rating. Over the next four years He missed about 10 payments and both Mortgages went into default and almost to foreclosure numerous times. Now my once 800+ credit score is tarnished due to his failure to pay. I can afford a house; I’ve been renting for the past 4 years and never missed a payment. My credit alone is excellent however with the numerous delinquent payments he accrued my credit has been trashed and a bank won’t even touch me… I know there are others in my situation and I believe this economy would turn around if the Banks would do a more thorough credit investigation to see I am an excellent candidate to purchase a foreclosure.

JF McNamara

December 13th, 2010
9:23 am

GaNative,

Buying a house they couldn’t afford is the ONLY reason we are in this mess. If people had put 20% down on their purchase as was prudent, they would probably still have equity in their home. If they’d saved two years worth of expenses as they are supposed to, they would still be in their homes.

The only cause of this situation was individuals being greedy. It wasn’t the government, the low rates, unemployment, or anything else. People were buying mansions with no doc loans knowing they couldn’t pay or ride out any financial trouble. People were buying homes with no money down and living check to check to pay for them. The individuals buying the houses they couldn’t afford are the ONLY people at fault.

Almost Homeless

December 13th, 2010
9:24 am

Total corruption on steroids, don’t believe for one minute that the banks want to make homes affordable or modify any loan! They are out to steal our homes and equity! My home is in foreclosure, I didn’t buy more home then I could afford. I have lived in my home for 24 years, had the same job for 34 years, I am 8 years into a 15 year loan….taken out in 2002 so that my home would be paid for when I was ready to retire! My problem is that I work in sales and sales are off 45% I earned $24K less in 2009 than 2008 and another $13K less from 2009 to 2010! I have $250K equity in my home. Why would a bank want to modify my loan when they can make more money faster on a foreclosure?

N

December 13th, 2010
9:27 am

Excellent Credit — Umm, sorry about your situation but you are not faultless – you stayed on the mortgage and therefore are still liable. Hard lesson to learn I guess

RSC

December 13th, 2010
9:34 am

Neither the federal government nor any person associated with the federal government (Frank) has ever forced any lending institution to make bad home loans to people who could not afford them. There is no legislation requring banks to make loans to people who can not afford them and there is no legislation that penalizies banks for not following proper lending guidelines. As a matter of fact, the CRA specifically says that banks must following sound lending practices. However, deregulation ALLOWED banks to make risky decisions to make risky loans by essentially removing the risks from those lending instituations. The American Dream Downpayment Act ALLOWED banks to make no money down loans to people who could not afford them, but did not FORCE them to. Look at the states with the lowest foreclosure rates (such as Texas). Those states have state regulations the do not allow for high risk loans.

I would agree that part of the foreclosure crisis was fueled by people buying more HOMES than they could afford but that is plural homes rather a singular home they couldn’t afford. At one point early in the foreclosure crisis, owner occupied homes only accounted for about 25% of the foreclosures. The other 75% were flippers and investors who had fallen for those “become a millionaire in real estate with no money down” books, seminars and infomercial scams. I saw a news report where one single person (flipper/investor) had 12 foreclosure properties selling on the courthouse steps at the same time.

Bunnie

December 13th, 2010
9:38 am

Those who smugly assert they did everything right and the foreclosure mess is caused by people buying too much house obviously haven’t lost a job or a house. Anyone who lost a job and then a home because a bank who received a bailout refused to modify the loan gains instant humility.

Almost Homeless

December 13th, 2010
9:42 am

@RSC Texas has a low foreclosure rate because of the oil industry! Have you checked fuel prices lately? That industry has seen it’s profits triple over the past 3 years! Oil has kept the state of Texas stable.

Banks are the problem . . .

December 13th, 2010
9:42 am

The BANKS are the current problem as they are holding their money and refuse to give loans. My wife and I applied for a refi recently. Her credit score was 820 and mine was 750. They advertised a refi rate of 4% but they said my credit score was too low and gave us a rate of 7.0%. The banks are in control and have a strangle hold on any economic growth because they will not grant loans even to the most qualified . . .

@Girly – things are not so peachy even if you did everything right . . . consider the family that purchased a home at a reasonable price, put 25-30% down and did everything “right” . . . with the current crisis their home’s value has lost AT LEAST 25% and it is still falling. So even following the “rules” you might find yourself underwater!

RSC

December 13th, 2010
9:43 am

As early as 2007, the Mortgage Bankers Association identified a “disproportionately high share of investor loans, or loans to buyers who do not plan to live in the house” as one of the driving factors behind high delinquency and foreclosure rates in Nevada, Florida, Arizona and California.

“These investors are much more likely to default on their mortgages if they see the value of their investments falling due to falling home prices,” the association’s press release said.

Back to Basics

December 13th, 2010
9:45 am

The current lending practices are a joke. I recently got divorced, and My ex wife and I decided that I would refi the house in my name and she would move. Thanks to all the greed, idiocy and overall lack of accountability (on all sides, a process that took only a week a couple years ago turns into a giant waste of time and frustration. I understand the banks being cautious, but it has really gone into the extreme. My credit score falls around 850, over the past 15 years I have bought, paid for and sold 2 other houses. I have 0 cc debt, and I was able to fully paydown the 2nd mortgage to a level that would allow the 1st and 2nd to be combined under 1 monthly payment. In addition, I had never taken out an equity loan, and was not looking to cash out any equity in the refi nor have I ever been late or missed a payment on any morgtage, car payment or utility bill. My house appraised for just under $3,000 for what we paid. I was shocked at all the hoops I had to go through just to refianance a house in my name. After all was said and done, I spent about $30,000 just to refi the home. Luckily I had the assets to do it, but there are a lot of people that can’t. It would certainly help if the same bankers that used to issue loans to you if you could fog a mirror, could use that same creativity to distinguish appropriate risk.

gatorman770

December 13th, 2010
9:49 am

Thank Jimmy Carter (our worst president before Obuma)for the “Community Reinvestment Act” (government forced home loans for the financially unqualified! Hey Jimmy, how is withdrawing US support for the Shah of Iran and helping install the islamic terriorist government in Iran, working for America and the rest of the world 32 years later?

Almost Homeless

December 13th, 2010
9:52 am

These large banks are corrupt, Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo do not do business with them! You will be sorry!

Sharon

December 13th, 2010
9:59 am

Heres a novel idea that happens in most other countries outside of the US, if you dont have the money thendont buy the hosue or other stuff, tha concept will not only lower ome prices and make it more affordable but will alos teach peopel to live within their means, most American wat a champange lifestyle on a beer budget salary. Wake up the party is over the Chinese are in command now.

Nia

December 13th, 2010
10:08 am

Its so easy to blame the homeowners saying that they brought more home then they could afford. The banks designed the sub prime market for one reason and one reason only, and that was for them to make money. They had no problem approving loans because they knew that it meant more profits for them. Home prices went up at least 300% when these loans hit the market, way more than what the homes are worth to began with. If you ask me, this crisis was created by the banks due to their own greed.

Back to Basics

December 13th, 2010
10:12 am

Nia – “Home prices went up at least 300% when these loans hit the market, way more than what the homes are worth to began with. If you ask me, this crisis was created by the banks due to their own greed.”

while agree to a certain extent, you still have to put a lot of blame on the homeowners. If you were looking at paying $600,000 for a house that up until then was in a $300,000 neighborrhood, you have no one to blame but yourself if you suddenly find yourself upside down. The same holds true for people who bought a $250,000 home and then started using it as an ATM everytime home prices took another turn upward. Simple logic dictates that what goes up must come down. If you borrowed against your home to the point that you now owe more than that home is worth, you have no one to blame but yourself.

lreeves

December 13th, 2010
10:12 am

Its not the President or Banks fault.Big companies went to Mexico and china for cheaper labor.Current President trying to help maintain their homes. Have your state goverment try o help anyone besides raise property tax

JF McNamara

December 13th, 2010
10:24 am

Almost Homeless,

I’m not even sure I understand what you are talking about. If you have $250K in equity but can’t make the payments, that’s not really a problem. I certainly don’t feel sorry for you. You have more equity in your home than the TOTAL price of most Georgians homes. You just don’t like your options, but here are two attractive ones:

1. Sell the house! Even if you only get $200K of your equity, you can still afford a completely new home with cash to retire in. With a little downsizing, you can have no monthly payment.

2. If you only have 7 years left on your loan, then refinance it to 30 years. Your payment will be half of what they are now, and you can pay forward on the amount when sales pick back up. Rates are low, and any bank would refinance you with that much equity.

Patrick

December 13th, 2010
10:25 am

I think the home builders are mostly to blame. The year before this crisis hit, I was amazed at the number of $300K+ subdivisions were being built. And they were in terrible locations. You could not find a new subdivision with under $250K houses unless you went to the boonies.

Yes, homeowners are partially to blame. I remember going through the $350K+ neighborhood near my house and laughed at the number that were occupied but had no furniture.

While I feel sorry for those that did everything correct and still lost their homes, I am glad this crash happened. Maybe in a few years things will get back to a sane level.

JF McNamara

December 13th, 2010
10:29 am

Bunnie,

I assert that its your fault, and I’m not against humility. My wife lost her job, and times are tough for us. I, however, had a plan beforehand that included the prospect of either me or my wife losing our jobs. Nobody forced me, or anyone else, to buy their home. If you failed to plan ahead and are now in foreclosure, its nobody’s fault but your own.

I’m not against you, or anyone else getting help. In fact, I’m very much for it. You need to be personally accountable for your decisions, however. Blaming others for your mistake doesn’t do that.

@RSC

December 13th, 2010
10:44 am

You are wrong. There is regulation that requires low-income lending and there is regulation that requires safe and sound lending. Unfortunately CRA is not enforced by safety and soundness examiners and IS enforced as a quota system.

Johnny Rocco

December 13th, 2010
10:58 am

I could take up a full page on who i felt put us in this mess, but what good would it do? We need to work on getting us out of the mess, and less time on how bad obmama or bush is or has been. I bet they are many other just like myself who are now watching the ballgame from the side lines due to low credit numbers. Yes, I was not able to pay back a business loan i had taken out during the go go years of real estate. I have to live with myself knowing this and beleive me that is very hard. I am told a measure of a man is not falling down but getting back up again. Well I have gotten back up, but without funding I have no place to go. Due to not being able to pay back that loan i am being black ball from getting any more new loans. I still have business plans i think could work today. If i could get a loan, i would start the business, put others to work for me. They would have money to spend that would put others to work. Start this times 1000 over the whole USA and things would began to get better. What a waste of my ability, and i have to think that others like me are out there. Give me (and others like me) a secord chance. Come up with a way to let small business people like myself start over with a new credit rating. I could put people to work. Try this and if it didn’t work out, would we be any worse off than we are now????

WAITING

December 13th, 2010
11:08 am

I know neighbors who have told me that they have not made payments on their home for months some even years…..and banks have yet to foreclose on them . I had a business partner who 2 ( that is two years) ago walked away and just stopped paying his loans on his building and they have YET to foreclose.

I think this will continue for years…….and repercussion for a decade.

I ask my bank (who received BILLIONS of TARP $$$ ) teller every time I make a payment on loans when BOA was going to pay off MY debts……still waiting on my fair share…. – and will be for ever!

ed

December 13th, 2010
11:09 am

Metro area governments, and especially school systems must do what individuals must do: learn to live within an austere budget. The recession has made it necessary to trim the bloated budgets made possible by fraudulently inflated real estate values. Municipal leaders chose to ignore reality during the so-called housing boom, and now must show they can manage on less or go get a real job.

Rickey Baker

December 13th, 2010
11:20 am

Our Govmnt. keeps telling us that things are getting better yet this is the news we see on a daily basis.

rbirealty

December 13th, 2010
11:21 am

@Flying South: You are very wise in your approach to dealing with your home. One of the main issues isn’t that most people bought what they couldn’t afford but as the growth continued, everyone would refinance at a lower interest rate, take that equity out, then the bottom drops. Now the owner has received this money and already spent it and then comes the unemployment. It’s hard to tell a home owner that the $125K house he bought is now worth $200K but don’t take out a line of credit or refi to $180K. What we realtors are seeing now is that this house is now worth that same $125K he originally paid but now he’s in the whole for 55K additional. There are some giving up homes even though they are not financially strapped.

I have a solution…let all the banks reset the notes back to what they were originally worth in 2001. Yes, there will be some financial fall out, but it’s in future dollars not in correct income. Now those in the red are no longer contemplating giving up a home just because it will take 10+ years for them to actually break even.

Another issue is the job market as a whole. Too many employers are reluctant to hire someone overqualified for a job. If that person applied, obviously they need work and have no problem with doing the work. They are more likely to excel at those tasks and be able to do more things efficiently. Too many bosses are CYA which is not allowing a lot of good people an opportunity to get back into the workforce.

Grady

December 13th, 2010
11:24 am

I bought my house seven years ago, got a regular mortgage, didn’t bite off more than I can chew, etc. However, my job took me away in October, 2008, and I haven’t been able to sell my house since then. It’s amazingly frustrating, as I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck in New York while my house in Atlanta languishes. I’ve already dropped the price as low as I can to break even after commissions, etc., but still I have little traffic. It’s so frustrating, I am considering alternative options.

It’s terrible when you do everything right but still get bit in the ass. I guess that’s life!

Back to Basics

December 13th, 2010
11:40 am

Patrick – “I remember going through the $350K+ neighborhood near my house and laughed at the number that were occupied but had no furniture.”

We used to call that the “Buckhead Syndrome”. There was a time when there were a number of people buying homes in the Buckhead area, and we couldn’t figure out how they could possibly afford them. Then one time, we went to a party in a pretty high end neighborhood, and the owners literally were living on lawn furniture and mattresses on the floor. Basically, the need to “appear” wealthy, outweighed the need for common sense. I’m prety sure these folks were the 1st ones swept away when the shizz hit the fan.

john

December 13th, 2010
11:50 am

I’m surprised some idiots still commenting that people lost there homes coz they don’t have a job. the ONLY reason they are in foreclosure is coz of no financial moral, buying houses they could not afford. the ONLY reason they bought those houses coz the lenders were giving 100% loans. if they had standards like putting 20% down all this BS would not have happened!

Sally

December 13th, 2010
12:13 pm

Obama has nothing to do with people buying more house than they can afford. It’s call PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. Now as for those folks who lost jobs, I truly sympathize with them but Obama cannot force employers to start hiring. Many companies can afford to hire they are just not hiring. And also I personally know some people who could afford their home, but they let it fall into foreclosure on purpose because the home value dropped so far.

Making Homes Affordable Program

December 13th, 2010
12:36 pm

SunTrust modified my mortgage. Now I pay only 2.25%. I feel sorry for the people that lost their homes because of the economy. Our previous government let big corporations “self-regulate” now we are all paying for it. Loved the comment from the guy who said he “planned” for this recession and paid off his house b4 he was 40. What a joke! BTW – I love that my tax money is now helping me get a better rate for my loan. I much prefer spending money on this program than spending $1 trillion for a war we were suckered into by Bush.

So sad for all of you

December 13th, 2010
12:47 pm

The banks made mortgage loans to people who couldn’t afford to pay them back. The government gave those people who lost their jobs extra unemployment compensation to pay the loans back. The government gave money to the banks to cover those loans which were still not being paid back. I have worked for the government for a long time and still can’t afford to buy a home.

P. Henry

December 13th, 2010
1:17 pm

Heh Toby! Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac IS part of the government. You need to read more than the newspapers & pay attention yourself. While you’re educating yourself, read up on how the Federal Reserve System is further robbing the people. Read the book, “The Great Depression” by Murray Rothbard for starters.

N-GA

December 13th, 2010
1:32 pm

As a retired banker who had to comply with the CRA, I can say without reservation that the CRA had virtually nothing to do with the housing meltdown.

The CRA mandated that banks must make deposits in the same geographic area where the deposits originated. So when a bank applied for a branch charter in a low income area, the bank was required to lend in that area. They couldn’t just accept deposits in Cabbagetown and use the money to lend in Dunwoody. The type of lending was not specified….it could be for credit cards, autos, furniture, appliances, etc. Also, it did not require banks to modify their credit requirements, It also did not require banks to even open new branches in low income areas! That was up to the banks. BTW, if a bank failed to comply with the CRA, the punishment was that their next application for a branch bank expansion might be rejected.

The financial industry on its own designed mortgage products like zero money down mortgages or interest-only mortgages. They did this in order to get more mortgages processed so they could “earn” loan origination fees.

Of course there will always be those who are to “thick” to understand all this. I can almost excuse their ignorance. Then there are others who understand it but since it doesn’t say what they want it to say, they will continue to blame the CRA…and lie!

N-GA

December 13th, 2010
1:40 pm

Here in Georgia it is easier to get approval for a new bank than it is to get approval for a new hospital. Some people might think that a bit troublesome. I mean, for most of us is there a bank closer to your house than the nearest hospital? Probably…..

JR FROM GA

December 13th, 2010
2:58 pm

How we got here is important. There is a lot to learn, no down payments, floating interest rates, no doc loans, etc… was a train wreck just waiting to happen. Then the bailouts begin and the rest of America gets to pay the bill. The bigger question however is, how do we fix it now….

It’s very simple. CREATE MORE JOBS and stop spending more than we take in.!!!
1) The country leaders needs to focus more on jobs and less about health care. If you have a job, you can buy health insurance. Some reform maybe needed but now is the time to make Jobs the number one priority for our country. JOBS, JOBS,JOBS,JOBS….. How do we do that???

2) Make loans available to small businesses. 95% of jobs created are from small businesses but without these loans, it’s not going to happen. Small business owners are resilient and will find a way to make money in any economy if they can get the backing.

Look at this example:

I happen to be a Real Estate Investor. If I borrowed $2,000,000 I could buy 100 houses and employee 20 people at $500.00 per week for one year. Now these 20 people will not be collecting the $350.00 per week unemployment benefits for the next year ($364,000 per year savings in unemployment.) but instead will be paying in $150.00 per week in taxes ($156,000 per year in taxes from these 20 employed workers.) That is $520,000 but I’m not done.

I will lease these houses out for an average rent of $1,000.00 per house per month or $1,200,000 in rent/ Income. This will generate 35% in income taxes or about $420,000.00 per year

If $500,000 of the $2,000,000 were for supplies I would pay 7% sales tax on that which is another $35,000. These 20 houses that I just rehabbed would experience a property tax increase of at least $1,000.00 per year, per house or $20,000.00 per year.

That is $995,000 just for making me a $2,000,000 loan, which I will pay back with interest.

Now for the other things I did not mention:
A) Some one is going to have to make those $500,000 worth of supplies I’m going to buy. This creates more jobs. The people making these supplies, like my 20 full time employees, are going to be working, spending money (More Sales Tax) buying Cars, buying houses, shopping and employing more people.
B) Now with more Investors and employed workers buying these houses that have flooded the market, the housing market turns around and so does every ones equity. Problem solved.
C) Credit reform a must as well. They need to look at peoples credit for the past 25 or 30 years and not just the past year or two. There are a lot of good Small Business Owners that have lost their credit rating in the past year or so because the banks would not loan them money. We are going to need these folks to restore our economy as-well.

And that’s how you do it!!
Please send the NOBELL PEACE PRIZE to JR FROM GA!!

[...] Metro Atlanta foreclosure notices fall in December, but annual record set [...]

CSC

December 13th, 2010
11:25 pm

The wave of foreclosures, and the economic bust, were predicted years ago by everyone from consumer advocacy organizations to bloggers to the FBI. In the early 2000’s, the FBI reported that mortgage fraud was done 80% of the time by the industry itself and predicted dire consequences to the US economy. Consumer groups were trying to get law enforcement to pay attention to mounting complaints about mortgage fraud and shoddy new home construction, two problems that often went hand in hand because of builders’ in-house lenders. But until banks began to get burned, nothing was really done. A number of small fry builders have now gone to prison for their role in mortgage fraud and many of the large national builders have resolved their govt investigations by paying fines. But this is the tip of the iceberg, and the CEO’s of these co’s that paid fines did not have their lives affected. What is so obscene is that even today, the news shows on TV, and the main newspapers, give time and space to real estate shills who are still telling people it’s a great time to buy. Houses haven’t even fallen to be in line with the average household income yet, and incomes are falling, not rising…have been falling for years relative to the cost of living. When I see the industry pushing houses at a quarter million dollars as ‘affordable’ I know we still have housing inflation. Very few Americans can actually afford that. The old rule of thumb that you can afford 2 to 3 times your anual salary mean the average American family can afford at most $150,000. If builders can’t build ‘em for that and still make a profit, then they need to stop building, because they’re doing something wrong. Leave out the frills, and for Gawd’s sake put in some quality structure instead.