Realty Check

Home Delinquency Report: Not Even A Silver Lining


I went into today’s “Quarterly Delinquency Survey”from the Mortgage Bankers Association thinking that no matter how bad the numbers are, the report is from the last quarter of last year, so things are probably better now.

I mean they have to be, right? We’ve got all these government and private sector programs in place now to help people modify, refi, and stave off foreclosure in some way.

I posed the question to all the experts I spoke with, and I didn’t get the answers I expected. Doug Duncan of the MBA said rising energy prices and a weakening economy could add to rising delinquencies and foreclosures. But what about a drop in delinquencies due to all these programs??

“We’ve been looking for indicators of that,” said Duncan. “The two critical issues--one is will house prices stop declining? If house prices stop declining and flatten out--which we don’t expect in the first half of 2008--then the numbers would tale off, so I guess what I’m saying is we expect some more increases.”

Another analyst I spoke with said that with credit squeezing up tighter than ever now, people have fewer options to refi. Also, more and more people, and not just those “speculators” are walking away from homes because they don’t see any point in making payments on a loan for a home that’s worth less than the mortgage. And we’ve yet to see the bulk of the subprime ARM’s reset. So there’s that.

One particle of good news is that the increase in the increases seems to be slowing, that is, the rate of delinquencies rose faster in the third quarter than in the fourth, even though both went up. I know--I’m really stretching here.

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Questions?  Comments?