Foreclosures recorded in the last week; and, what’s HUD doing on this list?

(c/p CCD)

207 sheriff’s deeds were filed with the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office in the past week (October 29 through November 2).

Here’s who filed five or more of them:

Department of HUD (29)
Deutsche Bank (25)
US Bank (17)
Wells Fargo (14)
Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp (9)
Bank of New York (8)
HSBC Bank (7)
Lasalle Bank (6)
National City (6)
American Home Mortgage (5)
Federal National Mortgage Assn (5)
Department of VA (5)

(Previous week.)

Since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development tops the list this week, it’s probably a good time to explore what the presence of HUD on this list (and the VA, and FNMA, and FHLMC) signifies.

Counting the sheriff’s deeds filed each week tells us, not who foreclosed on properties, but who acquired them at the sheriff’s sale. If you’re concerned (as I am) about who’s ending up in control of the hundreds of houses being foreclosed each week, the names on the sheriff’s deeds are very important — and HUD is ending up owning a huge number of foreclosed Cuyahoga County homes.

But the “grantee” name on a sheriff’s deed doesn’t necessarily tell you who filed the foreclosure in the first place. In HUD’s case, it never does, because HUD isn’t a mortgage lender or a trustee or agent for lenders, and it doesn’t foreclose on homes itself. It’s a guarantor for lenders — and part of its guarantee is that it will buy the foreclosed property at sheriff’s sale, so the lender doesn’t have to.

The same is true of the VA mortgage program (a Federal insurance service like HUD’s FHA program) as well as FNMA (“Fannie Mae”) and FHLMC (“Freddie Mac”), which are Federally chartered corporations set up to buy mortgages from the banks that originate them. All of these entities leave the private-sector lenders in charge of the mortgages they originate, including the process of foreclosure, and only step in to take over the properties at the actual sheriff’s sale.

So if we want to know which institutions actually foreclosed on Cuyahoga County homes, rather than who ended up taking title, the list of “grantees” on the sheriff’s deeds isn’t enough. We have to look at the actual documents to see who filed the foreclosure actions in the first place. This is time-consuming but, as it turns out, enlightening.

HUD, VA, FNMA and FHLMC filed a total of 48 of this week’s 207 sheriff’s deeds. Here’s who filed the foreclosures that led to those deeds:

  • US Bank (11, including 6 that were originally Leader Mortgage)
  • Countrywide (5)
  • JP Morgan Chase, ABN AMRO, and Huntington (4 each);
  • National City Mortgage (3);
  • other out-of-town lenders, including major subprimers Wells Fargo, Citimortgage, Washington Mutual, Wachovia, GMAC, Indymac, and Homefirst (13).

Just three of this week’s 48 HUD/VA/FNMA/FHLMC foreclosures were from local, conventional lenders other than Huntington — one apiece from Third Federal, Charter One and Ohio Savings.

So US Bank’s real total of completed foreclosures for the week — counting those acquired at sheriff’s sale by its guarantors — was actually 28, putting it ahead of Deutsche Bank for first place. And Countrywide, JP Morgan Chase, Huntington, and Citibank would all be on the past week’s “five or more” list, if we were counting completed foreclosures rather than the “grantee” names on the sheriff’s deeds.

This is too time-consuming process to do every week, and besides, as I said, I’m keeping track of the names on the final sheriff’s deeds because those are the institutions that most directly control the future of our neighborhoods — by what they sell off and to whom, what they tear down, what they leave vacant or abandon. HUD is one of the biggest of those “deciders”. currently holding over 700 properties in the county and over 400 in the city of Cleveland.

But it’s also important to understand who’s responsible for HUD getting all those houses. And it’s no surprise that it’s pretty much the same crew of national mortgage bankers whose fingerprints are all over the rest of the subprime crisis.

(See an earlier discussion of this issue in the comments on this post. )

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