Delinquencies increase, foreclosure starts flat

Mortgage delinquencies for U.S. homes in the third quarter of 2008 rose to 6.99% from the previous quarter to 6.41% of all loans outstanding, marking a new record 29-year high, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) National Delinquency Survey released Friday. From one year ago, delinquency rates-which measure mortgages that have at least one payment overdue-have risen 128 basis points.

This is the highest rate ever recorded in the index, which began in 1979. Last month’s index revealed a previous high as well; before that, the all-time high was 6.07% in 1985. The percentage of loans on which foreclosure actions were started during the third quarter was 1.07 percent, down one basis point from last quarter and up 29 basis points from one year ago on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.

The seasonally adjusted total delinquency rate continues to be the highest recorded in the MBA survey. The increase in the overall delinquency rate was driven by increases in the number of loans 90 or more days past due, primarily in California and Florida. The 30-day delinquency percentage remains below levels seen as recently as 2002.

The foreclosure starts rate differed greatly by loan type. For prime loans, foreclosure starts on fixed rate loans were 0.34 percent, unchanged from last quarter, while prime ARM foreclosure starts fell five basis points to 1.77 percent.

For subprime loans, fixed rate foreclosure starts increased 16 basis points to 2.23 percent and subprime ARM foreclosure starts decreased 16 basis points to 6.47 percent. FHA foreclosure starts were unchanged at 0.95 percent and VA foreclosure starts increased two basis points to 0.59 percent, all on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.

Nine states had rates of foreclosure starts that were above the national average: Nevada, Florida, Arizona, California, Michigan, Rhode Island, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. The remaining 41 states plus the District of Columbia were below the national average.

Jay Brinkmann, MBA’s chief economist and senior vice president for Research and Economics said, “An initial look at the number of foreclosure starts would seem to indicate at least a leveling off of foreclosures. These numbers, however, are being influenced by several factors including various moratoria on foreclosure filings and by mortgage companies holding loans in the 90+ day bucket during the modification and workout process. While 20 states showed declines in the rate of foreclosure starts between the second and third quarters, every state showed an increase in the 90 days or more delinquent category with the exception of Alaska and all of the increases were greater than what we would expect due to normal seasonal factors.

As for what is driving the national numbers, it’s still a case of product and location. Prime and subprime ARMs continue to have the highest share of foreclosures and California and Florida have about 54 percent and 41 percent of the prime and subprime ARM foreclosure starts respectively. Until those two markets turn around, they will continue to drive the national numbers,” continued Brinkmann.

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