The major mortgage servicers are getting their house in order, as foreclosures have accelerated in the past month. RealtyTrac reports that mortgage servicers started foreclosure on more than 78,800 properties in August, a 33-percent increase from July levels.

Most of us were aware that the foreclosure lull was only a temporary reprieve. That said, the growing rate of foreclosures has revived concerns over excessive inventory. The Cato Institute, an economic think thank, estimates an oversupply of three million houses, about a million more than actually demanded.

With so much inventory on the market and more to come, pricing becomes an issue: More supply means lower prices, which, in turn, means more negative equity. Concerning the latter, CoreLogic estimates that nearly 11 million properties, roughly 22.5 percent of all U.S. homes, were worth less than the underlying mortgage in the second quarter of 2011.The prospect of more price depreciation and more negative equity has increased calls for more government action. Problem is, efforts to date have had only marginal benefits or have had negative unintended consequences: Cato reports that government efforts to revive housing have helped the most expensive markets while actually depressing prices in the cheapest markets.

At this point, it might be best to let the market run its course. We’ve noted in past editions that when prices fall, demand increases, then prices increase. We've seen this economic truism at work to encouraging effect in a few hard-hit markets. The Orlando Regional Realtor Association reports that the median price for homes in its area has increased 15.1 percent year-over-year.

We've also often noted that real estate is local. The national numbers on foreclosures and negative equity can be big and scary, but they also carry no relevance to any one particular market.Mortgage rates are another matter; they tend to adhere closely to a national average. Rates at the national level dropped a few basis points this past week on most mortgage products.

There are many reasons for the drop in mortgage rates. One of the more interesting is a rumor that the Federal Reserve is contemplating purchasing longer-term Treasury securities (such as the 10-year note) to drive down long-term interest rates, which would help keep mortgage rates low. Because markets are forward looking, it is possible that the market is getting a jump on the Federal Reserve.

We've been in the minority in questioning the economic benefits of ultra-low mortgage rates. Our rationale is that low rates, and the anticipation of even lower rates, are delaying buying and refinancing decisions today. Our rationale isn't unfounded. Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas , believes low rates are limiting economic growth because businesses have an incentive to delay borrowing for expansion. They see no reason to act today if interest rates are expected to stay low tomorrow. We see the same effect in housing.

Information courtesy of Jessica Regan.