Saturday, August 15, 2009

MUST READ BOOK: Foreclosure Nation by Shari B. Olefson

I just finished reading an amazing book that explains in great detail why America has literally become a foreclosure nation and what real estate owners, taxpayers, and policy makers in Washington DC can do about it.

Author Shari B. Olefson has written a masterful book so rich in detail that I could easily see this work used as a textbook in a college class or a resource in a law library. This is not just another "How to Make a Fortune in Foreclosures" book but an extensive analysis of what specific policies brought about the current foreclosure crisis and specifically what needs to be done to get out of it. Despite all the facts and figures, this book is never dull. It is a fascinating read on a crucial subject not just for real estate investors but all Americans.

Want to know how a "foreclosure mill" works? Read this book.

I can't recommend FORECLOSURE NATION or her official website more highly to you. There is a lot more great information to be found there.

The review of her book reprinted below from the Albany Business Journal is a good analysis of the book as a whole.

But let me be very clear. I consider this book the best yet written on the current foreclosure crisis which is far from over. In July 2009 alone there were more than 360,000 NEW foreclosure filings, a 7% jump from June 2009. Despite all this happy talk about the economic recovery just being around the corner, statistics like this make it clear that it is not.

Author Shari B. Olefson should be remarkably proud of this book and not just what it represents but what it could accomplish should one or two responsible members of Congress actually read it.

Robert J. Abalos, Esq.
Foreclosure Nation: Mortgaging the American Dream
By Shari B. Olefson

So what is a foreclosure nation?

In her new book with that title, Shari B. Olefson writes that it’s a nation “replete with illiquid, distrustful, often insolvent lenders; distressed companies, industry leaders who stand accused of wrongdoing at the expense of an entire country; and innocent (and not so innocent) citizens who are losing their homes.”

It’s a bleak assessment for bleak times.

And Olefson should know. She is a Florida-based real estate attorney, which puts her at the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis. That expertise shows in this lengthy, well-researched book, which includes some 300 pages of narrative, followed by some 200 pages of glossary, appendix, worksheets and sample legal documents.

While the book is filled with how-to advice on things like finding low fees and interest rates, or predicting what your property will be worth once the crisis is over, “Foreclosure Nation” is much more than that. It provides concise, easily digestible background on how the ultra-complex subprime crisis—and as a result, the economy—got to be where it is. Chapter 8, titled “Predictions, Relief, And Reforms,” goes even further with a brief history of federal banks which, because it remains brief, adds compelling and helpful context.

While the book is 514 pages, it doesn’t feel that way. Each chapter is broken into several sections. Many include charts, graphs, tables and case studies. As a result, the book can be read a few vignettes at a time, in lengthy sittings or subject-by-subject with the aid of the detailed table of contents.

If nothing else, “Foreclosure Nation” is comprehensive, as Olefson covers the subject from the nation’s entitlement problem to the real estate bubble to a chapter titled “Foreclosure 101.”

In some ways, the book becomes a polemic on debt, without Olefson losing sight of the fact that she’s writing a real estate book.

“We are a nation in debt denial,” she writes. Later, she adds, “Together, we spent $800 billion more than we earned last year. Our household debt has grown to $14 trillion, doubling over the past six years alone.”

These are shocking statistics. And Olefson’s chronicling of how the lending industry has changed, alongside the culture’s attitude on debt, is shocking, too. But somewhere in there, she seems to have hope. It’s as if the nation has hit rock bottom, and this is our wake-up call.

“We’ve seen what happens when an entire nation takes its home equity for granted,” she writes. “This crisis is a once in a century opportunity for Americans to decide whether or not the nation we want to leave for our next generation is a foreclosure nation.”

If there’s a problem it’s that, early on, Olefson explains away the trouble with debt on consumer greed and recklessness. After broadly characterizing Generations X and Y as lazy, she draws this conclusion: “So we want lots of stuff, but we don’t want to have to work and wait for it.”

That may be true to some extent, and that may be part of why we’re in this mess. But it’s not hard to imagine more nuanced arguments—how the increasing cost of housing, for instance, is outpacing increases in wages for many Americans.

In fairness, Olefson does mention these trends in a later chapter on the bursting bubble. And throughout “Foreclosure Nation,” readers find there is plenty of blame to go around.