One in every eight U.S. households, a record share, ended 2008 behind on their mortgage payments or in the foreclosure process as job losses intensified a housing crisis spawned by lax lending practices, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Thursday.
With unemployment at a 16-1/2-year high and rising, more borrowers will be late paying or fall into foreclosure this year, said the group's chief economist Jay Brinkmann.
While California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Michigan continue to dominate the delinquency numbers, some of the sharpest increases we saw last quarter in loans 90 days or more delinquent were in Louisiana, New York, Georgia, Texas and Mississippi, signs of the spreading impact of the recession, he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama's $275 billion housing stimulus program will standardize modifications for distressed loans and pave the way for more refinancing.
That should smooth differences caused by various state and company moratoria that temporarily curbed the surge in foreclosures in the fourth quarter, Brinkmann said.
But keep in mind that there are three drivers to the housing problem, and this program of course addresses mostly the first one, which relate to loan structure, underwriting quality and fraud, Brinkmann said.
The two other major problems still loom large -- an oversupply caused by overbuilding and foreclosures, and unemployment.
A record 11.18 percent of loans on one-to-four unit residences were at least one payment past due or in the foreclosure process in 2008, on a seasonally adjusted basis.
The delinquency rate jumped 2.06 percentage points from a year ago to a record 7.88 percent. The share of loans in the foreclosure process leaped 1.26 percentage point in the year to a record 3.30 percent.
MBA started tracking the data in 1972.
There are some new states popping up in terms of the big increases, Brinkmann said.
We see New York being influenced by the layoffs that we've been seeing on Wall Street and some of the rest of the industry associated with that, he noted.
Some of the Southern states that had construction-related unemployment, whether it was forest product or plywood manufacturing. Some of the tourism industry is now being hit, certainly in Mississippi with the casinos, and in Florida.
In Michigan, where overbuilding was not a problem, supply nonetheless is weighty as people lose jobs and leave the state and strand homes, Brinkmann said.
Subprime adjustable-rate loans and prime ARM loans still drive the late payments, but that is shifting.
Nationwide, 48 percent of subprime ARMs were at least one payment past due and in Florida over 60 percent of subprime ARMs were at least one payment late.
We will continue to see, however, a shift away from delinquencies tied to the structure and underwriting quality of loans to mortgage delinquencies caused by job and income losses, Brinkmann said.
Of particular concern, he said, is a sharp pickup in joblessness among people with college educations.
By the end of last year, we saw some sharp pickups in delinquency rates with prime loans and I think that's now going to continue as long as we see unemployment continue to climb among the people most likely to own homes, Brinkmann said.
How high unemployment in that segment of the population gets and how long it stays there are will determine ultimately how long the prime fixed loan delinquencies continue to climb, he said. Some of these people do have adequate reserves to last maybe six months or a year without a job, but the longer this thing goes on the quicker they then run through those reserves and their loans go delinquent.
(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)