The Lake Martin real estate market has not really felt a direct effect of the mortgage meltdown yet. Sure, the subprime fiasco has caused conventional and jumbo rates to rise, but I consider that indirect. By direct effect I mean huge waves of foreclosures from high risk loans, and we haven’t really seen that on Lake Martin up to this point. I don’t think we will see as much of that here as was seen in other markets, because I don’t think that many of the 2004 and 2005 sales were fueled by speculators. A quick trip to the Tallapoosa County Courthouse last week confirmed the low foreclosure rate.
This is not true of other markets around the nation. Headlines like this abound: “Fraud Seen As Major Driver In Wave Of Foreclosures.” In a subject this big, there is a lot of blame to go around: borrowers who falsify their income to buy a home they know they cannot afford, unscrupulous realtors selling for commissions instead of trying to educate clients on wise home buying, dial-a-dollar appraisers who will sell their integrity for $400 a pop, and downright dirty mortgage brokers who churn up new paper and burn families in their wake.
Basically, in many of the cases I think much of this could have been avoided if buyers had stuck with local lenders.
I know this sounds naive of me. Sure, the mortgage industry has changed in the past 10 years. I know, I know, huge national companies can loan you money no matter where you buy, from Alaska to Port Orange. Sure, because of the internets they can offer low low rates with no no documentation.
So why go with your local yokel lender?
And how would local lending would have helped this mess?
First of all, it’s true, huge national companies can make mortgage loans anywhere with great rates. But the opposite is also true – local banks can tap national rate markets, and almost always match the best rate you can find on the internet. Plus their closing costs are usually lower, at Lake Martin, or anywhere else.
Secondly, more local lending would have helped because it’s human nature to care more about the person you know than you do about some number that’s three states away. If you’re a buyer, would you try to convince your local banker that you can afford a caviar home when she knows you can barely make the payments on your Gremlin? And if you’re a mortgage lender, how willing would you be to give a buyer a loan that you know you will have to foreclose in three months, if your wives are in the same bunko group? If you’re an appraiser who’s on the edge, wouldn’t it be easier to lie to an out of state lender versus one that you sit by at every Friday night football game?
I am not suggesting that we all turn the clock back 40 years and only deal with the bank on the corner and that we all have a credit account at the Feed n Seed. Shareholders pressure banks to make lots of loans, and to do that, they must venture out of state. I get that. But maybe this latest mortgage scare will cause lenders to return to common sense lending.