Wednesday
April 25, 2018

In Search of Normalcy

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In Search of Normalcy

Foreclosure freezes underscore the importance of getting back to “typical markets” in real estate brokerage and lending.

October 13 was a day of extremes for me.

In the morning, my 15-year-old son called me over to the computer, and we watched Claudio Yanez being pulled from the collapsed Chilean mine where he’d been trapped since Aug. 5. We ate breakfast and kept one eye on the live video stream. Shortly before we headed out the door, Mario Gomez emerged from the ground, and as I watched him hug Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, I felt utter joy.

Later, my mood took a dark turn. News stories about the recent foreclosure freezes were getting supercharged. I read an AP story from the previous day about “hair stylists and Wal-Mart floor workers” signing foreclosure affidavits. Another story showed one foreclosure specialist’s “signature” signed in four distinctly different ways. I felt torn: Should I be happy about the Chilean miner rescue or sad and outraged about families being put out of their homes?

The more I read, however, the more I put the whole foreclosure issue into perspective. First, I wasn’t surprised that plaintiffs’ attorneys uncovered problems with foreclosure documents. Isn’t that the job of plaintiffs’ attorneys—to spotlight legal problems for the benefit of their clients? Also, real estate practitioners have been saying for years that lenders aren’t adequately staffed to deal with all the short-sale requests coming their way, so it’s reasonable to assume that lenders are stretched thin on the foreclosure side as well. Yet, none of the accounts I read, except undocumented blog posts, implied that there were more than a handful of outright mistakes; in a vast majority of the cases, the people facing foreclosure hadn’t made a mortgage payment for a long time.

I’m not making light of poor due diligence. Having adequate, qualified staff is a real concern—I’ll be watching to see how lenders address that issue in the Nov. 16 Senate Banking Committee hearing. However, we all know it’s unlikely that further review of past and pending foreclosures will result in reversals for many people. For real estate professionals, though, there are worries about sales delays and title challenges on homes already sold. To address those issues, REALTOR® Magazine hosted a webinar Oct. 28 with attorneys Ralph Holmen of the National Association of Realtors® and Steve Gottheim of the American Land Title Association. The recording is available free at REALTOR.org/realtormag.

This foreclosure controversy has underscored how important it is that we get back to something approaching normalcy in real estate brokerage and lending—back to a time when we can hear a story like the Chilean miner rescue or the touching tales of our Good Neighbor Award winners (page 29) and feel nothing but utter, unadulterated joy.

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