The foreclosure mess could hurt homeowners in Manhattan in an indirect way: The costs of buying an apartment and paying off the mortgage are likely to go up, say housing experts.
The rising costs will come both during the closing and throughout the life of the loan.
At the closing, the cost of title insurance, which protects a property buyer from claims of ownership made by other people, is likely to rise, industry officials say.
“At a closing last week I witnessed an ‘additional title insurance fee’ to cover additional insurance.,” says Leonard Steinberg, managing director of Prudential Douglas Elliman and publisher of LUXURYLETTER.
The foreclosure mess has sent insurers scrambling. One of the largest, Old Republic Title Insurance, told its agents on Oct. 1 not to issue policies on homes that have been foreclosed by GMAC Mortgage or J.P. Morgan Chase. And on Wednesday, the nation’s largest title insurer, Fidelity National Financial, said lenders must vouch for the accuracy of their paperwork before it will insure properties.
Just like homeowners-insurance rates rise after a hurricane, the rates for title insurance are expected to rise, to compensate for the added risk.
The turmoil will likely lead to pricey premiums for new homeowners, says McLean, Va.-based housing economist Tom Lawler. Adds Cameron Finlay, chief economist at mortgage lender Lending-Tree.com: “Any time there is uncertainty in the market or risk implied, it follows that costs go up.”
Other costs could be felt during the life of the loan. Until the current mess, servicing loans was a low-margin, high-volume business. Servicers collect mortgage payments from borrowers and send them off to mortgage holders, and if the loan gets into trouble, they manage the foreclosure. Few doubt this process will get costlier now that it is under scrutiny from regulators and the courts. That higher cost likely will show up in higher interest rates for borrowers.
Both of these higher costs also would hit homeowners who refinance their loans.
How much the costs of buying a home will rise is unknown. Mortgage industry officials say it is too soon to tell. And no one believes the costs will significantly change the price of a home. So if you thought anyone was immune to the foreclosure mess, think again.
And no, Manhattan is not immune even though foreclosures are still extremely rare here. The only good news: all these rising costs equal INFLATION, not the worse option, deflation. Owning real estate during inflationary times is a good thing.