Friday, December 5, 2008

Bloomberg on Foreclosures

Mortgage Delinquencies, Foreclosures Rise to Record

By Kathleen M. Howley

Dec. 5 (Bloomberg) -- One in 10 American homeowners fell behind on mortgage payments or were in foreclosure during the third quarter as the world’s largest economy shed jobs and real estate prices tumbled.

The share of mortgages 30 days or more overdue rose to a seasonally adjusted 6.99 percent while loans already in foreclosure rose to 2.97 percent, both all-time highs in a survey that goes back 29 years, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a report today. The gain in delinquencies was driven by an increase of loans with payments 90 days or more overdue.

“Until we see a turnaround in the job situation, we’re not going to see these numbers improve,” said Jay Brinkmann, chief economist of the Washington-based bankers group, in an interview. “We’re seeing more loans build up in the 90-days bucket as lenders work to modify loans and states put in place programs that delay foreclosures.”

The U.S. economy has shed 1.91 million jobs this year, while falling home prices have made it difficult for people who can’t pay their mortgages to sell their property. Payrolls declined in each month of 2008 through November, the Labor Department said today in Washington.

New foreclosures fell to 1.07 percent from 1.08 percent in the second quarter as some states enacted laws to temporarily stop home repossessions and lenders increased efforts to modify the terms of loans, Brinkmann said.

Home Sales Sink

“Some servicers keep a loan in a delinquent state until they see customers carrying through on their agreements, and then they’ll switch it to performing,” Brinkmann said.

U.S. home sales and prices began to tumble in 2006 after a five-year boom, dragging the economy into a recession that began in December 2007, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The median home price in the fourth quarter probably will be $190,300, down 19 percent from the record $226,800 in 2006’s second quarter, according to a Nov. 24 forecast by Fannie Mae, the world’s largest mortgage buyer.

Purchases of existing homes in October slid to an annual rate of 4.98 million, lower than forecast, the National Association of Realtors said in a Nov. 24 report. The median price fell 11.3 percent from a year earlier, the most since the group began collecting data in 1968.