MEET THE NEW NEIGHBORS: FORECLOSURES IN PALM BEACH COUNTY IN 2012
BY LYNN E. SZYMONIAK, ESQ., JANUARY 16, 2013
Foreclosures and the aftermath of foreclosures continued to be the most significant single factor in the United States economy in 2012. Palm Beach County, Florida, was representative of the counties hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. The overall number of new foreclosures filings was 15,419, a significant increase from the 2011 total of 12,154 new filings. Wells Fargo Bank, the bank with the highest number of foreclosures filed in Palm Beach County in 2012, filed 2,248 new cases. There were 19,840 new foreclosures filed in 2010 in Palm Beach County and 31,678 filed in the worst year, 2009.
The total of new Lis Pendens filings (new foreclosures) by Fannie Mae was 398, down considerably from the 2011 total of 669. Fannie Mae, however, again acquired the most homes at foreclosure auctions as it did in 2011. The county clerk issued 1,394 certificates of title to Fannie Mae in 2012. Fannie Mae also acquired 237 properties from private parties. Wells Fargo was second in acquisitions at auction, with 592 properties. Bank of New York Mellon (the trustee for most of the mortgage-backed trusts created by Countrywide) was third, acquiring 530 properties. Bank of America was fourth with 481 properties acquired and Deutsche Bank was fifth with 468 properties acquired. The foreclosing parties acquired over 7,500 properties at auction in 2012. This indicated both low interest by private third-party buyers, and a lack of mortgage money for purchasing by third-party buyers. Because of both new foreclosures and acquisitions at auction after foreclosure, the new neighbor next door in 2012 was most likely Fannie Mae, Wells Fargo or Bank of America.
FORECLOSED PROPERTIES ACQUIRED BY FANNIE MAE
& MAJOR BANKS, PALM BEACH COUNTY, 2008-2012
WELLS FARGO & WACHOVIA
BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON
BANK OF AMERICA, BAC HOME LOANS & COUNTRYWIDE
In 2012, Fannie Mae continued to resist modifications involving principal write-downs, even as many banks were finally approving short sales and principal write-downs, and even as Fannie Mae’s stockpile of unmarketable and unmaintained foreclosed homes grew dramatically. Fannie Mae repeatedly announced its opposition to meaningful principal reductions to all homeowners, including long-term residents and senior citizens.
SALES BY FANNIE MAE AND MAJOR BANKS
While Fannie Mae was number one in acquiring foreclosed properties, it was also number one in selling foreclosed properties. Fannie Mae sold 1,604 properties in 2012, with almost all of its sales concentrated on low-end properties.
Over half of the properties sold by Fannie Mae sold for less than $50,000. Fannie sold 83% of its properties in Palm Beach County for less than $100,000. This was far lower than the median sales price for existing homes in the county – $219,500 in November, 2012. Fannie Mae’s policies and practices overwhelming affected lower income families with modest homes more than high-income families with expensive homes. Only five of the properties in the 200 home survey sold for more than $200,00.
Of the first 200 sales by Fannie Mae recorded in 2012:
10% (20) were sold for $1,000 or less;
11% (22) were sold for between $$1,001 and $10,000;
13% (26) were sold for between $10,001 and $20,000;
6% (12) were sold for between $20,001 and $30,000;
10.5% (21) were sold for between $30,001 and $40,000;
7% (14) were sold for between $40,001 and $50,000;
4.5% (9) were sold for between $50,001 and $60,000;
7% (14) were sold for between $60,001 and $70,000;
8% (16) were sold for between $70,001 and $80,000;
4.5% (9) were sold for between $80,001 and $90,000;
2% (4) were sold for between $90,001 and $100,000.
Most of the properties sold by Fannie Mae were sold to individuals, but there were also many corporate buyers. The largest buyer of properties in Palm Beach County in 2012 from Fannie Mae was a Delaware corporation, SFR 2012-! Florida LLC. This company is actually a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fannie Mae and primarily bought condominiums. This acquisition activity was reportedly part of Fannie Mae’s announced entry into bulk sales, despite strong community criticism of the bulk sales plans.
Eighty-eight deeds were recorded transferring properties to SFR 2012-1 Florida LLC in 2012 from Fannie Mae. Almost all of the sales were for $10, even though many of the properties sold for over $300,000 in 2005 and 2006.
The following corporations bought 5 or more properties in Palm Beach County from Fannie Mae or foreclosing banks in 2012 (asterisk indicating 10 or more properties acquired in 2012):
ABC Real Estate Investments, LLC
Abrams Property Group, Inc.
BBIG Investments LLC*
Caribbean All Real Estate Corp.
Cerim Realty LLC
Community Land Trust of Palm Beach County, Inc.
Dalland Properties LP*
Delta Foreclosure Management, LLC*
Florida Foreclosure Group LLC*
Florida Foreclosure Management, LLC
Florida Prime Capital, LLC
FTC Group LLC
Global Asset Holdings, LLC*
Hermosa Casa, LLC
Hotter International, Inc.
Imobilia of South Beach, LLC
Infinity Clear Lake LLC
JVAD Management Inc.
KPL Development, Inc.*
Lake Worth Community Redevelopment Agency*
Lionshead Investments, LLC*
Meridian Trust, LLC
Mijax Properties LLC
Naya Investment & Management LLC
Neighborhood Renaissance, Inc.*
Palm Beach Financial Solutions, LLC *
Prodigy Capital, Inc.*
RBD Lending Financial Inc.
Rebound Residential LLC
Rosebud House LLC
SG Orlando Holdings, LLC
Stellar Alon LLC
Stellar Home Group, LLC
TIF SOFL II R LLC
U.S. Capital & Investments LLC*
Vonerick Capital Partners, LLC
VS & NS Investment Group, LLC
Westgate Belvedere Homes Community Redevelopment
9,154 Palm Beach County homes were sold online after foreclosure in 2012, according to the records of the county Clerk of the Court. This was down from 2011, when 12,069 properties were sold. In 2010, 12,385 were sold. In the majority of cases, the properties were sold back to the bank, Fannie Mae or mortgage servicer. In many cases, the sales price was $10, meaning there were no third-party bidders for these properties. (Statistics for 2009 are not available because the county did not begin online auctions until December, 2009.)
FORECLOSED PROPERTIES SOLD AT AUCTION, 2012 & 2011
PALM BEACH COUNTY
(2011 Totals are in Parenthesis)
623 properties sold (955)
488 properties sold to the foreclosing party (776)
135 properties sold to a third party (179)
822 properties sold (869)
616 properties sold to the foreclosing party (757)
206 properties sold to a third party (142)
(1 property did not sell)
758 properties sold (955)
555 properties sold to the foreclosing party (825)
203 properties were sold to a third party (130)
764 properties sold (640)
520 properties sold to the foreclosing party (528)
244 properties were sold to a third party (112)
597 properties sold (715)
466 properties sold to the foreclosing party (599)
131 properties sold to a third party (116)
606 properties sold (754)
426 properties sold to the foreclosing party (657)
180 properties sold to a third party (97)
(6 properties did not sell)
523 properties sold (779)
384 properties sold to the foreclosing party (681)
139 were sold to a third party (98)
781 properties sold (1,144)
590 properties sold to the foreclosing party (1,008)
191 properties sold to a third party (136)
869 properties sold (1,312)
686 properties sold to the foreclosing party (1,186)
183 properties sold to a third party (126)
980 properties sold (1,558)
822 properties sold to the foreclosing party (1,409)
158 properties sold to a third party (149)
629 properties sold (1,077)
529 properties sold to the foreclosing party (929)
100 properties sold to a third party (148)
1,202 properties sold (1,281)
1,005 properties sold to the foreclosing party (1,167)
197 properties sold to a third party (114)
FLIPPING FORECLOSURE PROPERTIES
In several hundred cases throughout the year, a bank, acting as trustee for a mortgage-backed trust, sold a property it had bought at auction after foreclosure to a corporation that then sold that same property, often on the same day that it purchased the property from the trust. In the second transaction, the property sold for $25,000 to $50,000 more than the first sale. In each of the subsequent sales, the purchaser was a newly formed limited liability corporation. Each of these LLCs had the same principal address and mailing address. In many of these cases, the original foreclosing entity that sold very low was a Bear Stearns trust. In many other cases, the foreclosing entity that repeatedly sold very low was Fannie Mae.
Increasingly, the new neighbors on the block are newly-formed corporations that see the Palm Beach County housing crisis as an investment opportunity. While some buy to flip, particularly to foreign buyers, others buy to enter the rental market. The vast majority of properties obtained by banks and Fannie through foreclosures are still being held “off market,” creating an artificial increase in housing prices. The median sales price for existing homes was up to $219,500.
Florida’s foreclosure rate was the highest in the country in 2012. One in every 32 homes in Florida received a foreclosure notice last year, even after four previous years of very high filings. Some sources put the increase from 2011 to 2012 at over 50%. Miami-Dade County foreclosures were up 56% in 2012 to 44,284; Broward County foreclosures were up 26.4% to 25,935 new filings.
These three South Florida counties also had some of the highest foreclosure fraud rates in the country, a number much harder to quantify. Over 5,000 mortgage assignments prepared by DocX were filed in these three counties from 2008 – 2010. The vast majority of these documents were not withdrawn or corrected, despite the guilty plea of the former president of DocX and the nationwide repudiation of these documents by county recorders. Another 10,000 mortgage documents were prepared, signed and filed by employees of the law firms of David Stern and Marshall Watson. Stern’s manager, Cheryl Samons, signed thousands of documents as a MERS officer, while Watson’s associates, Caryn Graham and Patricia Arango signed thousands of others, also as MERS officers. In most of these cases, these assignments purported to show that mortgage-backed trusts that closed in 2005 and 2006 acquired thousands of non-performing loans from 2009 – 2012. Stern was later forced out of business and Watson was ordered to close his firm in December, 2012, as part of the disciplinary action taken by the Florida Bar, but most of the documents produced by these firms have not been withdrawn or corrected.
Court watchers in these counties also report increased animosity from the bench, abrogation of the Rules of Civil Procedure, and increasing due process violations. No program is in effect or even in the planning stages to address the crisis in South Florida.