Subscribe: Bubble Meter
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
case shiller  home price  home prices  home  homes  housing market  housing  index  market  national  prices  shiller  year 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Bubble Meter

Bubble Meter

Bubble Meter is a national housing bubble blog dedicated to tracking the continuing decline of the housing bubble throughout the USA. It is a long and slow decline. Housing prices were simply unsustainable. National housing bubble coverage. Please join in

Updated: 2015-09-17T01:00:44.004-04:00


The investment performance of REITs


This graph shows the investment performance of real estate investment trusts over the past decade. As you can see, they plunged during the housing crash, but have since fully recovered and continue growing.

frameborder="0" height="300" scrolling="no" src="" style="border: 1px solid #ddd; overflow: hidden;" width="400">

Robert Shiller wins Nobel Prize in Economics


Yale Professor Robert Shiller has won the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel:
Three American professors — Eugene F. Fama, Lars Peter Hansen and Robert J. Shiller — were awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science on Monday for showing that asset prices move unpredictably in the short term but with greater predictability over longer periods. . . .

Mr. Fama, 74, was honored for showing that asset prices are “extremely hard to predict over short horizons.” . . .

Mr. Shiller, 67, would later introduce an important caveat to the idea that markets operate efficiently, finding that stock and bond prices show greater predictability over longer periods. Mr. Shiller and other economists see evidence that these movements cannot be entirely explained by rational decision-making, and instead reflect the irrational behavior of market participants.
Robert Shiller also co-developed the modern methods of tracking home prices used by this blog and my housing graphs website.

Why the prolonged economic slump? One word: Housing.


Economist Dean Baker writes about a recent research paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland:
The study goes on to note the extraordinary weakness in housing in this recovery and point out that this weakness could explain much of the weakness of the recovery.

While the study notes that there are questions of causation (a weak recovery could lead to weakness in housing), there can be little doubt that if residential construction had returned to its pre-recession level, as had been the case by this point in all prior post-war recoveries, the economy would be back near full employment.

Of course it is not hard to understand why housing has not recovered. The massive over-building of housing during the bubble years lead to an enormous over-supply of housing, which shows up in the data as a record vacancy rate in the years 2006-10. In the last couple of years the vacancy rate has begun to decline which can explain the recent uptick in housing over the last few quarters.

This housing story explains why we should have expected a long and drawn out recovery. There is no easy way to replace the massive loss in demand associated with the collapse of the housing sector. And, it is hard to blame the collapse on President Obama, since the overbuilding took place in the years 2000-2006 and the collapse was already well underway at the point where he took office. ...

Ultimately we will need an increase in foreign demand, meaning a lower trade deficit, to fill the gap. This will require a lower valued dollar which will make U.S. goods more competitive internationally. Unfortunately, neither candidate seems willing to make the case for a lower valued dollar, which means that we can probably expect a weak economy for many years into the future, regardless of who gets elected.

S&P/Case-Shiller national home price index falls again


In the first quarter of 2012, the S&P/Case-Shiller national home price index fell 1.9% year-over-year:
Data through March 2012, released today by S&P Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, showed that all three headline composites ended the first quarter of 2012 at new post-crisis lows. The national composite fell by 2.0% in the first quarter of 2012 and was down 1.9% versus the first quarter of 2011. The 10- and 20-City Composites posted respective annual returns of -2.8% and -2.6% in March 2012. Month-over-month, their changes were minimal; average home prices in the 10-City Composite fell by 0.1% compared to February and the 20-City remained basically unchanged in March over February. However, with these latest data, all three composites still posted their lowest levels since the housing crisis began in mid-2006. ...

The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, posted a 1.9% decline in the first quarter of 2012 over the first quarter of 2011.
Unfortunately, crappy journalists at several different news organizations keep emphasizing the 20-city numbers instead of the national numbers. Why? Why would anyone think that an index that measures a random selection of 20 cities deserves more emphasis than an index that covers the overall country? (Note: The S&P/Case-Shiller national home price index really only measures 70% of the country, but that's still way more than just 20 cities.)

Housing recovery a long way off


In a CNBC editorial, Michael Yoshikami argues that a housing market recovery is still a long way away:
Housing starts were surprisingly strong this week, while there was improving sentiment from home builders. So should we start to breathe a sigh of relief that the housing market is returning to health? The short answer is no. The headlines say that housing is stabilizing and there are signs of life in the real estate sector. This is true but is only part of the story. Signs of life is far different than a return to healthier times.

While KB Homes and Toll Brothers are reporting sales increases, this does not erase the fundamental problem with the real estate market today; there are too many people wanting to sell and not enough buyers. In some neighborhoods in the United States, every other house is for sale and sitting stagnant with no takers. But this is the obvious sign that the real estate market is troubled; there are deeper problems below the surface.

What is more troubling is in every block in neighborhoods across the United States, there are huge numbers of potential sellers that would sell their house if they could get the price they believe their house is worth. This huge reserve of sellers creates a supply waiting to flood the market when any sign of recovery in real estate capital values returns.

Additionally, banks continue to hold huge inventories of foreclosed properties waiting for a rebound in the market before placing these properties into the real estate market. ...

In addition to supply issues, the U.S. economy is far from healthy. While we are in the midst of an uneven recovery, unemployment remains stubbornly high and the prospects of a more normalized employment rate are far off in the distance.

Why did America's housing bubble decline more than in other countries?


Much of the developed world (especially America and Europe) had a housing bubble. The Economist asks why America's fell so much faster than the bubbles in Europe:
Perhaps the difference is institutional. American banks had poorer lending standards and have been quicker to foreclose on properties; borrowers have been readier to walk away from their homes. In European countries, owners have been able to sit tight in the hope that prices will recover. European markets are certainly a lot less liquid. Irish transaction volumes dropped by 83% from their peak and Spanish ones by 64%, but American deals fell by just 46%. Europe is going in the same direction as America. It is just getting there more slowly.

Updated housing graphs


I have updated my national housing bubble graphs to reflect the latest data available. It covers home prices from 1970-2011. It looks like U.S. home prices are fairly valued, although it varies by metro area. As I said in the past, I don't expect any significant overshooting nationally. I stick by that prediction.

Here, the red line represents inflation-adjusted housing prices, and the blue line reflects nominal housing prices:

The graph below compares the change in home prices to the change in owner-equivalent rents over time. Without any bubbles, they should increase at roughly the same rate over time:

S&P/Case-Shiller national HPI shows 4% fall in home prices


U.S. home prices fell 4.0% during 2011:
Data through December 2011, released today by S&P Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, showed that all three headline composites ended 2011 at new index lows. The national composite fell by 3.8% during the fourth quarter of 2011 and was down 4.0% versus the fourth quarter of 2010. Both the 10- and 20-City Composites fell by 1.1% in December over November, and posted annual returns of -3.9% and -4.0% versus December 2010, respectively. These are worse than the -3.8% respective annual rates both reported for November. With these latest data, all three composites are at their lowest levels since the housing crisis began in mid-2006.
Note: Only the national composite index really matters when measuring the national housing market. Ignore the 10- and 20-city indexes.
In addition to both Composites, 18 of the 20 MSAs saw monthly declines in December over November. Miami and Phoenix were up 0.2% and 0.8%, respectively. At -12.8% Atlanta continued to post the lowest annual return. Detroit was the only city to post a positive annual return, +0.5% in December versus the same month in 2010. In addition to the three composites, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Seattle and Tampa each saw average home prices hit new lows. ...
Translation: Washington, DC metro area home prices fell, too.

As I pointed out yesterday, Phoenix, Detroit, and Miami are dirt cheap, so the prices should rise. Las Vegas and Tampa are also dirt cheap, but apparently prices are still falling there.
“In terms of prices, the housing market ended 2011 on a very disappointing note,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices. “With this month’s report we saw all three composite hit new record lows. While we thought we saw some signs of stabilization in the middle of 2011, it appears that neither the economy nor consumer confidence was strong enough to move the market in a positive direction as the year ended.

“After a prior three years of accelerated decline, the past two years has been a story of a housing market that is bottoming out but has not yet stabilized. Up until today’s report we had believed the crisis lows for the composites were behind us, with the 10-City Composite originally hitting a low in April 2009 and the 20-City Composite in March 2011. Now it looks like neither was the case, as both hit new record lows in December 2011. The National Composite fell by 3.8% in the fourth quarter alone, and is down 33.8% from its 2nd quarter 2006 peak. It also recorded a new record low.

“In general, most of the regions also posted weak data in December. Eighteen of the cities saw average home prices fall in December over November. Seventeen of the cities have seen monthly declines for at least three consecutive months. In addition to both monthly composites, 10 of the cities saw home prices fall by more than 1.0% during the month of December. The pick-up in the economy has simply not been strong enough to keep home prices stabilized. If anything it looks like we might have reentered a period of decline as we begin 2012.”
To paraphrase Annie: The bottom, the bottom, I love you, the bottom. You're always a year away.

Warren Buffett is a housing bull


Billionaire investor Warren Buffett believes housing is a better investment than stocks right now:
Warren Buffett says along with equities, single-family homes are a very attractive investment right now.

Appearing live on CNBC's Squawk Box, Buffett tells Becky Quick he'd buy up "millions" of single family homes if it were practical to do so.

If held for a long period of time and purchased at low rates, Buffett says houses are even better than stocks. He advises buyers to take out a 30-year mortgage and refinance if rates go down.
His housing recommendation is likely based on the fact that mortgage rates are incredibly low right now. Nationally, home prices are no cheaper than their pre-bubble norm, although it varies depending on where you live.

I believe that some housing markets are far better buys than others. Cities with very high unemployment rates have dirt-cheap home prices right now. Places like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Detroit, and most of Florida have prices below their historical norms.

Happy Valentine's Day, renters!


We get no respect, no respect at all:
In a survey of 1,000 single people, more than a third of women and 18% of men said they would much rather date a homeowner than a renter.
Only 2% of women said they preferred to date a man who rents, while only 3% of men said they would choose a woman who rents over one that owns her home, according to the survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive for real estate site Trulia.

Both sexes also clearly prefer it when there's no roommate in the picture; 62% of survey respondents, men and women, prefer to date singles who live alone. ...

Trulia also asked which home features are the biggest turn-ons. Number one turned out to be a master bath. Men (64%) love that private sanctum almost as much as women (75%) do.

Walk-in closets were cited by 55% of men and 72% of women and gourmet kitchens got 51% of the male vote and 62% of the female. Hardwood floors, outdoor decks and home theaters also came in high on the list.

S&P/Case-Shiller HPI down in November


The November numbers for the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index are out. The 20-city index is down 3.7% year-over-year and down 1.3% month-over-month:
Home prices posted a steep, month-over-month drop in November, falling 1.3%, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city report. Prices fell in 19 of the 20 cities the index covers.

Prices are down 3.7% from a year ago, and off 32.8% since they peaked in the summer of 2006. The index is currently only 0.6% above its March, 2011 low.

"Despite continued low interest rates and better real GDP growth in the fourth quarter, home prices continue to fall," said David Blitzer, spokesman for S&P.

December housing starts down 4.1% month-over-month; up 8% year-over-year


Housing starts fell in December compared with November. (FYI, housing starts numbers are usually seasonally adjusted.) However, they are up about 8% year-over-year. Keep in mind that we've had abnormally good weather this winter, which is great for home building.
It wasn’t exactly a banner December for the home-building industry.

The nation’s builders started construction on 4.1% fewer homes compared with a month earlier. Construction decreased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 657,000 in December, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

But the news wasn’t all gloomy. The main reason for the monthly decline was a more than 20% drop in construction of multifamily homes with at least two units, a part of the market that tends to swing around a lot.

Other data were more positive. Analysts often pay more attention to the single-family sector, which made up more than 70% of housing starts in December. Single-family construction was actually up 4.4% from a month earlier and reached the highest level since April 2010 – a time when builders were ramping up construction in response to a government tax credit for first-time home buyers.

The housing sector is gradually, tentatively, slowly healing after a collapse in prices that started 5 1/2 years ago. There have been some encouraging signs of late, and builders have been growing more optimistic.

But it’s clear that there’s a long way to go. Since 1959, there have been about 1.5 million new homes started per year, on average. Last year, construction was started on only 607,000 homes – the best year since 2008, but still the third-worst year since the government began keeping records.

The clueless Fed


The release of Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting transcripts from 2006 show how little America's top economic minds understand how leveraged asset bubbles harm the economy:As the housing bubble entered its waning hours in 2006, top Federal Reserve officials marveled at the desperate antics of home builders seeking to lure buyers.The officials laughed about the cars that builders were offering as signing bonuses, and about efforts to make empty homes look occupied. They joked about one builder who said that inventory was “rising through the roof.”But the officials, meeting every six weeks to discuss the health of the nation’s economy, gave little credence to the possibility that the faltering housing market would weigh on the broader economy, according to transcripts that the Fed released Thursday. Instead they continued to tell one another throughout 2006 that the greatest danger was inflation — the possibility that the economy would grow too fast.“We think the fundamentals of the expansion going forward still look good,” Timothy F. Geithner, then president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, told his colleagues when they gathered in Washington in December 2006. ...The transcripts of the 2006 meetings, released after a standard five-year delay, clearly show some of the nation’s pre-eminent economic minds did not fully understand the basic mechanics of the economy that they were charged with shepherding. The problem was not a lack of information; it was a lack of comprehension, born in part of their deep confidence in economic forecasting models that turned out to be broken.“It’s embarrassing for the Fed,” said Justin Wolfers, an economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “You see an awareness that the housing market is starting to crumble, and you see a lack of awareness of the connection between the housing market and financial markets.”“It’s also embarrassing for economics,” he continued. “My strong guess is that if we had a transcript of any other economist, there would be at least as much fodder.” ...The committee consists of the governors of the Federal Reserve and the presidents of the 12 regional banks.“The speed of the falloff in housing activity and the deceleration in house prices continue to surprise us,” Janet Yellen, then president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said in September.One builder she spoke with, she said, “toured some new subdivisions on the outskirts of Boise and discovered that the houses, most of which are unoccupied, are now being dressed up to look occupied — with curtains, things in the driveway, and so forth — so as not to discourage potential buyers.” ...But the Fed’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, appears as the most consistent voice of warning that problems in the housing market could have broader consequences.The general consensus on the board, summarized by Mr. Geithner, was that problems in the housing market had few broader ramifications. “We just don’t see troubling signs yet of collateral damage, and we are not expecting much,” he said at the September meeting.Mr. Bernanke initially agreed, telling colleagues at his first meeting as chairman, in March, “I think we are unlikely to see growth being derailed by the housing market.”As the year rolled along, however, Mr. Bernanke increasingly took the view that his colleagues were too sanguine.”I don’t have quite as much confidence as some people around the table that there will be no spillover effect,” he said. ...One fundamental reason for this blindness was that Fed officials did not understand how deeply intertwined the housing sector and financial markets had become. They also were convinced that financial i[...]

DC-area homes of the 2012 presidential candidates


A bunch of websites are posting photos of the 2012 presidential candidates' homes, probably sparked by this Zillow Blog post. Here are the homes the candidates have in the DC area:

Newt Gingrich
7410 Windy Hill Ct, McLean, VA 22102
Value: $1,284,400

Rick Santorum
10607 Creamcup Ln, Great Falls, VA 22066
Value: $1,305,100

Jon Huntsman
2121 Leroy Pl NW, Washington, DC 20008
Value: $3,303,100

Immediately prior to his purchase of the home, it was used as the residence for contenders on the Bravo reality TV show "Top Chef: Season 7".

Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20500
Value: $261,632,300

The deadbeat hasn't paid rent in three years! gets the zip code wrong. It's 20500, not 20006.

Ron Paul
I don't know were Ron Paul lives in the DC area, but he's trying to sell his Texas home over the internet for $63,500 more than Zillow thinks it's worth.

Zillow CEO on housing market


(object) (embed)

S&P/Case-Shiller Index falls yet again


I was on Christmas vacation last week. Here's some housing news that was released while I was gone:
Home prices fell for the sixth straight month in October, down 1.2% compared with September and 3.4% a year ago, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index.

The decline was disappointing in light of several other recent reports, which painted a more positive picture of the housing market. ...

tight lending standards and a glut of foreclosures continue to weigh on the housing market, said Pat Newport, a housing market analyst for IHS Global Insight.

With so many homes for sale at distressed prices, the home price numbers come as no surprise, he said.

"The numbers are pretty bad and will get even worse over the next two years," he said.

The 20-city index has dropped every month since April. Since the housing bust began in mid-2006, homes have lost nearly 33% of their value.
CNN Money isn't clear about this, but they are referring specifically to the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city seasonally-adjusted index.

The Wall Street Journal has a nice little graphic showing the year-over-year home price change measured by different sources:

National Association of Realtors overstated existing home sales by 16.7%


Last week I blogged about the National Association of Realtors overstating existing homes sales over the past five years. At the time we didn't know how much the Realtors overstated the numbers. Now we know they overstated them by 16.7%:
Existing home sales during the housing bust were actually 14.3% worse than previously reported, a revision to Realtors' group numbers shows.

On Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revised home sale counts back to 2007 due to flaws in their original data analysis.

In 2007, there were actually just 5.04 million existing home sales, 11% less than the 5.65 million originally reported. Even worse were 2008 and 2009, when there were 16% fewer sales than originally reported. Sales in 2010 were 15% lower.

"The errors started in 2007 and continued to accumulate over time," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. ...

The data is "key to the economic outlook," said Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics, "and the revisions help to explain the severity of the housing crash." ...

Some industry sources had been critical of the organization's data. In February, CoreLogic charged that NAR data was overestimating sales by 15% to 20%.

When NAR investigated, it found a "notable upward drift" in the numbers compared to other measurements such as courthouse deeds records, said Yun.
For anyone confused about where the 16.7% in the title comes from, the first sentence of the quoted article says sales were 14.3% worse than previously reported, and 100 / (100-14.3) = 16.7.

Updated housing graph


I have updated my national housing graph. My metropolitan area graphs are still nine months out of date.

Housing starts spiked in November


Housing starts are up 24.3% year-over-year:
Home building spiked up in November to the strongest level in almost two years, as record-low mortgage rates and a surge in apartment and condo construction lifted activity.

Housing starts shot up to an annual rate of 685,000 in the month, up 9.3% from October and 24.3% higher than a year earlier. Building activity easily topped predictions of 627,000 starts economists surveyed by were expecting.

Building permits, a closely-watched reading that is less affected by weather than actual starts, also shot up, rising 5.7% from October and 20.7% from the year before to 681,000 homes annually. ...

Both permits and starts were the strongest readings since the spring of 2010, the original deadline for a homebuyer tax credit that sparked a temporary rebound in building and home sales.
I'd like to post some graphs, but the St. Louis Federal Reserve website hasn't updated their data. When they get around to it, the new housing starts graph will be here and the new housing permits graph will be here. The official Commerce Department press release is here.

Mortgage lenders suspend evictions for the holidays


Merry Christmas, delinquents! You get a free pass for about two weeks:
Happy holidays struggling homeowners! Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and several large mortgage lenders have pledged not to foreclose on delinquent borrowers during the Christmas season.

For homeowners with loans through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the moratorium will run from Dec. 19 to Jan. 2. During this time, legal and administrative proceedings for evictions may continue, but families will be allowed to stay in their homes, Fannie said in a statement.

"No family should have to give up their home during this holiday season," said Terry Edwards, an executive vice president for Fannie Mae.

Among some of the major banks that offer mortgage loans, Chase Mortgage said it will not evict anyone between Dec. 22 and Jan. 2. Wells Fargo will also suspend evictions during that period, but will not shut down its eviction machinery entirely. ...

Bank of America said that it would "avoid foreclosure sales or displacement of homeowners or tenants around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays."
The caveat is that these temporary suspensions only apply to loans in a bank's own portfolio. For loans the banks service for others, evictions will still occur.

Realtors overstated home sales for 5 years


The National Association of Realtors has admitted that it overstated existing homes sales numbers for the past five years:
If you thought the U.S. housing market couldn't get much worse, think again.

Far fewer homes have been sold over the past five years than previously estimated, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday.

NAR said it plans to downwardly revise sales of previously-owned homes going back to 2007 during the release of its next existing home sales report on Dec. 21.

NAR's existing home sales numbers, released monthly, are a closely followed gauge of the health of the housing market.

While NAR hasn't revealed exactly how big the revision to home sales will be, the agency's chief economist Lawrence Yun said the decrease will be "meaningful."

"For the real estate business, this means the housing market's downturn was deeper than what was initially thought," Yun said.

Senators propose easier visas for foreign home buyers


I am a strong supporter of immigration. There's no way America would have grown from a sparsely-populated wilderness to the world's sole superpower without it. However, this seems to me like yet another lame attempt by politicians to re-inflate the housing bubble they loved so much:
Two senators, Charles Schumer, a Democrat, and Mike Lee, a Republican, recently introduced legislation to fast-track visas for foreigners spending $500,000 on residential property. Their Visit USA Act would allow purchasers and their families to live in America for as long as they owned their houses, though not to work there or receive any federal benefits.

The senators envisage wealthy jet-setters and well-heeled retirees boosting America’s weak housing market. As buyers would have to live in their new homes for at least 180 days a year, they would also (very handily) be liable to pay American tax on any foreign earnings.

Occupy Wall Street comes to your neighborhood


The OWS movement is now protesting foreclosures:
In more than two dozen cities across the nation Tuesday, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement took on the housing crisis by re-occupying foreclosed homes, disrupting bank auctions and blocking evictions.

Occupy Our Homes said it's embarking on a "national day of action" to protest the mistreatment of homeowners by big banks, who they say made billions of dollars off of the housing bubble by offering predatory loans and indulging in practices that took advantage of consumers.
Hopefully the OWS protesters used the occupation of homes as an opportunity to take a shower. I've heard from several sources that these people, unshowered for months, smell like rotten eggs.

S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index declines 3.9% year-over-year


For the third quarter of 2011, the S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index was flat quarter-over-quarter, but fell 3.9% year-over-year:
Data through September 2011, released today by S&P Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, show that nationally home prices did not register a significant change in the third quarter of 2011, with the U.S. National Home Price Index up by only 0.1% from its second quarter level. The national index posted an annual decline of 3.9%, an improvement over the 5.8% decline posted in the second quarter. Nationally, home prices are back to their first quarter of 2003 levels. ...

The chart [above] depicts the annual returns of the U.S. National, the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite Home Price Indices. The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded a 3.9% decline in the third quarter of 2011 over the third quarter of 2010. In September, the 10- and 20-City Composites posted annual rates of decline of 3.3% and 3.6%, respectively. Eighteen of the 20 MSAs and both monthly Composites had negative annual rates in September 2011, the only exceptions being Detroit and Washington DC.

U.S. government goes after mortgage scammers


It sickens me to see that some people will happily screw over people who are already in trouble:
The federal government is cracking down on scammers who target struggling homeowners looking to lower their monthly mortgage payments.

Hundreds of con artists have been taking advantage of victims through online advertisements on search engines Google, Bing and Yahoo!, promising to help homeowners modify their mortgages through the government-run program known as the Home Affordable Modification Program (or HAMP).

Last week, the agency that investigates fraud, waste and abuse in the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, announced that it has shut down 85 scams that were advertising on Google. Then, on Monday, it announced it had halted another 125 shady advertisers on Yahoo and Microsoft's Bing search engine. ...

Ever since HAMP and other federal aid programs aimed at helping struggling homeowners were launched, scam artists have been finding ways to exploit them.