REO bulk sales may have limited benefits, analyst says

The U.S. government's plan to sell foreclosed properties to investors will have a disappointingly small impact, according to analyst Paul Dales.

The senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics, Dales recently wrote in a report that the initiative's pilot program will be selling assets which, for the most part, are already occupied by tenants. Of the 2,490 REO assets being sold, the report indicates 85 percent have tenants already.

While the pilot program is meant to be followed-up if successful, Dales also notes that the assets scheduled for sale only represent 1 percent of the REOs held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, meaning there are many more. As a result, the program is unlikely to have a beneficial impact on vacancies and prices. He also noted that mortgage fees could be higher, reducing housing demand further.

Meg Burns, senior associate director of Housing and Regulatory Policy at FHFA, stated that it is easier to price properties with tenants, which may help attract investors. Additionally, she noted that having the properties remain rentals for a time could improve stability in the neighborhoods, rather than allowing them to be quickly returned to the for-sale market. Until the program has time to produce clearer results, it is unclear what the impact on rental property management firms will be.