A report released by one of the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, reveals that homeowners have improved their ability to keep up with monthly mortgage payments. The number U.S. homeowners with delinquent mortgages felled to a three-year low. Nonetheless, the number of homeowners with delinquent mortgages remains at a level well above the rate established before the collapse of the housing market in 2007, and declines at a sluggish pace.
From April through June 2012, 5.49 percent of borrowers had mortgage payment 60 or more days delinquent. Delinquencies have fallen nearly nine percent in the first six months of 2012. The current level represents the lowest point since the first quarter of 2009. In the second quarter of 2012, the rate dropped from 5.78 percent rate for the first quarter of 2012 and 5.82 on a year-to-year basis.
The drop in the number of delinquent mortgages represents light at the end of the tunnel for the U.S. housing sector and the general economy.
Other Encouraging News
Other data show that home values increased 2.2 percent from April to May -- the second increase measured after seven consecutive months of stable or falling numbers. New home sales reached a two-year high in May but felled slightly in June. Existing home sales, which decreased in June, registered a year-over-year increase.
More homeowners have taken advantage of the lowest interest rates ever for the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage to mortgage refinance their home loans. The Home Affordable Refinance Program refinanced 78,000 more borrowers than 2011—many who owed more on their loans than the actual worth of their homes. These factors help put a number of homeowners in a better financial position to pay their mortgages.
The group vice president of U.S. Housing for TransUnion Tim Martin says, its “great that more homeowner’s can afford to pay their mortgages on time, but "I expected a little bit better. “ Martin commented, “maybe we'll see some more of that pick up in (the third quarter)."
General Economy Still Showing Weakness
Since the earlier part of 2012, a number of housing market metrics shows a turnaround in the housing market despite an economy that struggles to grow at a sustainable pace. For example, the unemployment rate has remained at 8.2 percent. After exceeding a pace of almost 200,000 new jobs per month in the first quarter of 2012, the average for new jobs created each month declined to 75,000 from April-June. However, the most recent Employment Situation release showed 163,000 new hires in July.
The TransUnion report predicts the mortgage delinquency rate will continue to fall, but stay above five percent for the rest of 2012. The current rate of mortgage delinquency lingers well above past levels. This means many homeowners still have a difficult time making their mortgage payments five years after the market collapse. Before the prolonged downturn, less than two percent of homeowners had delinquent mortgage.
Less than three years after the market crashed, the delinquency rate increased to almost seven percent during the fourth quarter of 2009. Mortgage delinquencies have gradually declined since peaking in 2009.
However, home prices, which have declined an average of 34% in the last five years, need to continue to appreciate rising for the mortgage delinquency rate to decline, according the TransUnion report.
Results by States
Florida has consistently remained in the top three states for foreclosures since the market peaked. The “Sunshine State” continues to have the highest number of borrowers with delinquent mortgages - at 13.48 percent compared to 13.91 percent in 2011.
Following are the next three states with the highest rate of delinquent mortgages:
- Nevada - 10.85 percent
- New Jersey - 8.15 percent
- Maryland - 6.79 percent
North Dakota (1.32 percent), South Dakota (1.94 percent), Nebraska (2.24 percent) and Wyoming (2.41 percent) registered the lowest delinquency rate.
Two states that occupied one of the top three rankings for high foreclosure rates – California and Arizona made significant improvement from April through June. The delinquency rate for California homeowners declined to 6.13 percent – a 22 percent year-over-year decrease. Arizona’s mortgage delinquencies dropped 21 percent to 6.14 percent.
California, Arizona and other states have low delinquencies partly because state laws allow for non-judicial foreclosures. Non-judicial foreclosures permit lenders to process delinquent mortgages faster because the courts play a limited role in the non-judicial foreclosure process.
In judicial states, foreclosures require court approval. The foreclosure pipelines in these states have bottlenecks of cases with mortgages delinquent for two years or more because of a moratorium place on foreclosures in late 2010 by the big mortgage lenders. Banks have recently begun to work through the logjams under new foreclosure processing guidelines imposed by the February $26 billion mortgage settlement.