Fewer home loans going bad but foreclosures on rise

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Far fewer borrowers are delinquent on their home loans these days, a Mortgage Bankers Assn. report shows, but new foreclosure actions are on the rise in states like California, showing the nation still has much pain to endure before the housing crisis subsides.

Private analysts say the nation is only halfway through the wrenching grip of the foreclosure epidemic. And that’s reflected in the housing market, where home sales and prices continue to sag in many areas despite record low interest rates.


Five years into the crisis, 7.99% of all U.S. home loans were behind by at least one payment in the third quarter but not yet in foreclosure, the mortgage trade group said Thursday. That’s down by nearly half a percentage point from the second quarter and more than a percentage point from a year earlier.

But the group’s statistics showed how banks are reasserting themselves against troubled borrowers after slowing the process for nearly a year amid increased scrutiny from regulators.

The percentage of loans on which foreclosure actions were started during the third quarter was 1.08%, up from 0.96% in the second quarter. California had the nation’s fifth-highest rate of new foreclosures: nearly 1.5% in the latest quarter.

The percentage of somewhere in the foreclosure process at the end of the third quarter was 4.43%, up slightly from a year earlier. The rate of homes in foreclosure was highest in Eastern and Midwestern states that route all home repossessions through the courts, with Florida at more than 14% and New Jersey at 8%.

California, which for years had one of the highest rates of loans in foreclosure, has fallen to 19th on the list because its foreclosure process doesn’t normally require court action and is among the most streamlined in the nation. In other words, even as the rate of new foreclosures increases, the repossessions are being handled quickly.

Of states that handle foreclosures without going through court procedures, Nevada was the only one high on the total foreclosure-rate list, with nearly 8% of its mortgages in foreclosure.

In a separate report Thursday, mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac said the typical rate on a 30-year fixed-rate home loan early this week was an even 4.0%, a statistically insignificant rise from 3.99% a week earlier. The 15-year fixed loan rates rose to 3.31% from 3.30%.

Expressing some optimism, Frank Nothaft, an economist for the trade group, said the economy ‘is showing potential for further gains in the near term’ as the near-record low mortgage rates persist.

Retail sales rose for the fifth straight month in October, consumer confidence rose for the third straight month in early November to the highest reading since June, and home-builder confidence exhibited a back-to-back monthly increase in November to the strongest level since May 2010, Nothaft said, citing various surveys.


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Many Americans say they will have to work until they’re 80

-- E. Scott Reckard