Foreclosure, delinquency rates spike amid growing unemployment

By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 19, 2009; 12:10 PM

The share of homeowners delinquent on their mortgage or in foreclosure hit a new record during the third quarter, according to industry data released Thursday, which also indicates that the problem is likely to get worse through next year as unemployment rates continue to rise.

About 9.6 percent of borrowers were delinquent on their mortgage during the third quarter, according to the survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association, and 4.5 percent more were somewhere in the foreclosure process. Overall, about 14 percent of mortgage loans were delinquent or in the foreclosure process during the quarter, according to the group.

That is the highest level ever recorded by the survey, which has been conducted since 1972. That is up from 9.7 percent of borrowers who were in trouble during the same period last year.

The majority of the problem remains in the Sun Belt states, such as California and Florida, which accounted for about 43.4 percent of the foreclosures started during the third quarter. But loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration are making up a bigger part of the problem also, according to the survey. Of the foreclosures started during the quarter, 10.6 percent were insured by FHA, up from 7.8 percent during the same period last year.

Also, the challenge is also continuing to shift from the subprime loans that sparked the housing downturn to prime loans, which are traditionally considered safer and make up the bulk of the mortgages outstanding in the country. Of the loans in foreclosure during the quarter, about 55 percent were made to prime borrowers, compared with 37 percent that were subprime.

"The outlook is that delinquency rates and foreclosure rates will continue to worsen before they improve," Jay Brinkmann, MBA's chief economist, said in a statement. It "is unlikely the employment picture will get better until sometime next year and even then jobs will increase at a very slow pace. Perhaps more importantly, there is no reason to expect that when the economy begins to add more jobs, those jobs will be in areas with the biggest excess housing inventory and the highest delinquency rates."

The foreclosure problem is building despite a massive government program, known as Making Home Affordable, which pays lenders to lower borrowers' payments. The administration has said more than 600,000 borrowers have been added to that program this year.

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