Mortgage Delinquencies, Foreclosures Rise to Record

Dec. 5 (Bloomberg) — One in 10 Americans fell behind on their 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.

Home resales in the U.S. dropped in October and prices fell by the most on record, signaling a deepening housing recession going into 2009.

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

Yesterday Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke urged using more taxpayer funds for new efforts to prevent home foreclosures, saying the private sector is incapable of coping with the crisis on its own.

Bernanke’s Plans

The Fed chief outlined four possible options, including buying delinquent mortgages and providing bigger incentives for refinancing loans. He called for addressing the “apparent market failure” where lenders aren’t modifying mortgages even in cases where it’s in their own economic interest to do so.

Bernanke’s proposed changes would go beyond those announced last month by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steve Preston, who oversees the FHA. The agency will lower the amount of the loan a lender must forgive, allow banks to extend mortgage.

The bankers’ report cites percentages without providing the number of mortgages. The U.S. had $11.3 trillion of outstanding home loans at the end of June, according to Federal Reserve data. Mortgage lending fell to $80.8 billion in the second quarter, down from $764 billion a year earlier, the Fed said.

The Mortgage Bankers report is based on a survey of 45.5 million loans by mortgage companies, commercial banks, thrifts, credit unions and other financial institutions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen M. Howley in Boston at kmhowley@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: December 5, 2008 10:51 EST
By Kathleen M. Howley

Source: Bloomberg

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