October, 2007
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Strengthening Homes and Safeguarding Families


Whether you want to expand your own knowledge or share information with the public, free materials from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) are a valuable resource. In support of its goal to strengthen homes and safeguard families, FLASH publishes and distributes “Blueprint for Safety news” at no charge. Available in print or electronically, past issues provided information about a number of important housing issues:

  • 2006 Fall Blueprint For Safety News – Wildfire
  • 2006 Spring Blueprint for Safety News – Retrofitness
  • 2006 Summer Blueprint for Safety News – Flood
  • 2006 Winter Blueprint for Safety News – Preparing for Disaster
  • 2007 Blueprint for Safety News – DIY Wind Inspection
  • 2007 Spring Blueprint for Safety News – Windstorm
  • Blueprint for Safety Brochure – Roofing
  • Blueprint for Safety News – After the Storm – National

For instance, the issue on roofing includes “Ten Steps to Building a Disaster-Resistant Roof.”

  1. Consider the shape of the roof
  2. Brace gable ends
  3. Secure roof-to-wall connections
  4. Reinforce roof sheathing (decking)
  5. Create a secondary water barrier
  6. Install the roof underlayment
  7. Select an impact-resistant roof covering
  8. Choose the right roof covering for your location
  9. Add an extra measure of protection
  10. Perform roof checkups twice a year

There’s a full explanation for each step, most accompanied by a helpful illustration. In addition, there’s a sidebar in this issue: “Some Facts To Consider About Tile Roofing.”

After the Storm – National is a special edition featuring “Seven Things You Need to Know Before Rebuilding Your Hurricane-Damaged Home.” It advises, “Homeowners can now strengthen homes to ‘code-plus’ standard.” In addition to the seven steps, FLASH offers itself as a source for construction information, builder/inspector courses and technical support for homeowners, homebuilders and inspectors at no charge. For more information on disaster-resistant “ code-plus building techniques, visit www.flash.org, www.blueprintforsafety.org or call 877-221-SAFE.

If it sounds as if FLASH materials would be of interest to you or your customers, you can view them online at www.FLASH.org and sign up to be included on the mailing list. There is no charge to consumers for FLASH materials. Large groups, businesses or associations wishing to order materials can e-mail requests to FLASH@flash.org.

Join FLASH to get on the mailing list. It’s simple. Send your name, address, phone number and e-mail address to FLASH@flash.org. As a member, you will receive issues of the FLASH newsletter, Blueprint for Safety News. You’ll be asked your preference for print or electronic editions.

Crisis in the mortgage industry
New foreclosures set record in latest MBA survey
California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona drive numbers up: economist

The headline in the Sept. 6 MarketWatch declared: “New foreclosures set record in latest MBA survey. California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona drive numbers up: economist.”

“The number of mortgage loans entering the foreclosure process in the second quarter set another record, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.”

In its report, available at mortgagebankers.com, the association notes, “Similar to last quarter, the national delinquency and foreclosure rates are being driven by what is taking place in a few large states. Additionally, the performance of prime and subprime adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) is contributing significantly to the overall results.”

“What continues to drive the national numbers, however, is what is happening in the states of California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona. Were it not for the increases in foreclosure starts in those four states, we would have seen a nationwide drop in the rate of foreclosure filings. Thirty-four states had decreases in their rates of new foreclosure and the increases were very modest in the states with increases, other than those four.

“In addition, there is a clear divergence in performance between fixed rate and adjustable-rate mortgages due to the impact of rate resets. While the seriously delinquent rate for prime fixed loans was essentially unchanged from the first quarter of the year to the second, and the rate actually fell for subprime fixed-rate loans, that rate increased 36 basis points for prime ARM loans and 227 basis points for subprime loans.

“What is not clear, however, is whether subprime ARM loans are causing the problems for California or whether California is causing the problems for subprime loans. California has 17 percent of the subprime ARMs in the country and over 19% of the foreclosure starts on subprime ARMs. The four states of California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona have more than one-third of the nation’s subprime ARMs, more than one-third of the foreclosure starts on subprime ARMs, and are responsible for most of the nationwide increase in foreclosure actions.

“There are special circumstances driving conditions in those four states that will likely make things worse:

• Declining home prices make refinancing of these ARMs difficult, particularly if the borrower originally put down little if any down payment. Home prices have dropped in all four of these states and 52 of the 59 MSAs in the four states saw home-price declines during the second quarter, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO).

• The root of the home-price problem there is that the inventory of new homes available for sale in the Western Region hit an all-time record high at the end of the second quarter.In addition, Florida continues to see a major supply of condos and other new homes on the market.

• These four states have a disproportionately high share of investor loans, or loans to buyers who do not plan to live in the house. As of June 30, the non-owner occupied share of defaulted loans (90 days or more past due or in foreclosure) was 32 percent in Nevada, 25 percent in Florida, 26 percent in Arizona and 21 percent in California, compared with 13 percent in the rest of the nation. These investors are much more likely to default on their mortgages if they see the value of their investments falling due to falling home prices.

“Therefore, the problems in these states will continue, and they will continue to drive the national numbers, but they do not represent a national problem.”

Interest remains high in what is viewed a crisis by many in housing-related industries.

The next day, Sept. 7, Inman News reported, “Democratic lawmakers are drafting bills that would impose new restrictions on mortgage lenders and loan servicers. The bills would ban yield-spread premiums and prepayment penalties on higher-priced loans, and increase liability for mortgage brokers and investors who buy securities backed by mortgage loans.”

The previous week, Pat V. Combs, 2007 president of the National Association of Realtors®, released the following statement:

“The National Association of Realtors® strongly commends President Bush for his leadership in proposing a set of policies designed to ease the crisis in the mortgage industry and halt the rapidly increasing rate of foreclosures affecting many American families today.
“NAR has been advocating for many of these FHA changes since early 2007. In letters, testimony, speeches and meetings, we have encouraged both Congress and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to make meaningful changes to the FHA that would stem rising foreclosures.

“The proposed changes will allow more people to refinance with FHA insurance, like those that have fallen behind in their mortgage because of so-called “exploding” ARMs.

“NAR also supports separate legislation to abolish the mortgage cancellation tax that consumers are hit with when their mortgage is forgiven by their lender.”
Earlier, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) had announced a FHASecure refinancing product expected to help nearly one-quarter of a million homeowners refinance and keep their homes. The program will allow families with strong credit histories who had been making timely mortgage payments before their loans reset — but are now in default — to qualify for refinancing.