Banks taking longer to take back homes with high-balance loans

ForeclosureRadar: Accounting changes encourage 'extend and pretend'

Banks are taking longer to complete the foreclosure process for homeowners with high-balance mortgages and those who have more than one home loan — in part because of changes in accounting rules that have allowed them to put off recognizing inevitable losses on those loans.

That’s the conclusion of Sean O’Toole, founder and CEO of ForeclosureRadar, after his company analyzed 153,956 foreclosure sales in California from January 2008 through early July 2011.

The analysis found that homes with loan balances larger than $417,000 (the conforming loan limit) were taking 396 days to complete the foreclosure process, compared with 286 days for homes with loan balances below that threshold.

While it’s taking longer and longer for lenders to complete the foreclosure process on all homes, regardless of loan balance, the foreclosure process has grown even more dramatically for high-balance loans and homes with more than one loan. The "spread," or difference in time to complete the foreclosure process for high- and low-balance loans, has grown from 16 days in July 2009 to 110 days two years later.