Mercy James thought she had lost her rental property here to foreclosure. A date for a sheriff’s sale had been set, and notices about the foreclosure process were piling up in her mailbox.
Ms. James had the tenants move out, and soon her white house at the corner of Thomas and Maple Streets fell into the hands of looters and vandals, and then, into disrepair. Dejected and broke, Ms. James said she salvaged but a lesson from her loss.
So imagine her surprise when the City of South Bend contacted her recently, demanding that she resume maintenance on the property. The sheriff’s sale had been canceled at the last minute, leaving the property title — and a world of trouble — in her name.
“I thought, ‘What kind of game is this?’ ” Ms. James, 41, said while picking at trash at the house, now so worthless the city plans to demolish it — another bill for which she will be liable.
City officials and housing advocates here and in cities as varied as Buffalo, Kansas City, Mo., and Jacksonville, Fla., say they are seeing an unsettling development: Banks are quietly declining to take possession of properties at the end of the foreclosure process, most often because the cost of the ordeal — from legal fees to maintenance — exceeds the diminishing value of the real estate.
The so-called bank walkaways rarely mean relief for the property owners, caught unaware months after the fact, and often mean additional financial burdens and bureaucratic headaches. Technically, they still owe on the mortgage, but as a practicality, rarely would a mortgage holder receive any more payments on the loan. The way mortgages are bundled and resold, it can be enormously time-consuming just trying to determine what company holds the loan on a property thought to be in foreclosure.
So much of the mess reflects the unregulated, unlicensed that still is mortgage loans. Unlike genuine banks, storefront mortgage loan companies are about as regulated and orderly as your friendly neighborhood payday loan shark. Though reasonable, appropriate record-keeping at the level of proper banks will produce necessary documentation.
Oh, regulation? Congress is still discussing it. Republicans and conservative Dems aren’t certain their favorite lobbyists will approve.
Toyota Motor Corp. has put millions of people on four wheels. Now, the global auto giant wants to put roofs over their heads, too.
Best known for its top-selling cars like the Prius and Corolla, Toyota is looking to apply its ecofriendly image and technical know-how to help boost sales of its small and little-known prefabricated-housing division.
Since 1975, Toyota has been building steel-frame houses designed to withstand earthquakes and typhoons and keep out burglars…But with new Japanese government calls for sturdier home construction — to cut down on waste created by home demolitions — and heightened consumer interest in eco-conscious designs, Toyota hopes it will play a leading role in the years ahead in defining not only how the Japanese drive but where they live, too.
Toyota’s aspirations as a home builder are also gaining new importance with the planned launch by 2010 of its plug-in vehicles, gas-electric hybrid cars with powerful lithium-ion batteries that drivers will need to recharge at home. The car maker is testing an electricity-monitoring system in its homes that would charge the vehicle during off-peak hours to keep utility bills low, while the car’s battery can serve as an electrical backup, powering the home during blackouts.
You should even be able to use the same smart key to lock and unlock house and car. :)