Morris A. Davis of the University of Wisconsin seems to have hit the nail on the head in his assessment of the next wave of foreclosures in this NY Times report.
In the latest phase of the nation’s real estate disaster, the locus of trouble has shifted from subprime loans — those extended to home buyers with troubled credit — to the far more numerous prime loans issued to those with decent financial histories.
With many economists anticipating that the unemployment rate will rise into the double digits from its current 8.9 percent, foreclosures are expected to accelerate. That could exacerbate bank losses, adding pressure to the financial system and the broader economy.
“We’re about to have a big problem,” said Morris A. Davis, a real estate expert at the University of Wisconsin. “Foreclosures were bad last year? It’s going to get worse.”
First it was the flippers, then it was the subprime borrowers, and now it's the prime borrowers - those who have lost their job or some portion of their income or, for whatever other reason in a souring economy, can no longer afford to make their mortgage payments.
And it should come as no surprise that prime mortgages are defaulting at the fastest pace in all the former housing bubble states.
From November to February, the number of prime mortgages that were delinquent at least 90 days, were in foreclosure or had deteriorated to the point that the lender took possession of the home increased more than 473,000, exceeding 1.5 million, according to a New York Times analysis of data provided by First American CoreLogic, a real estate research group. Those loans totaled more than $224 billion.
During the same period, subprime mortgages in those three categories increased by fewer than 14,000, reaching 1.65 million. The number of similarly troubled Alt-A loans — those given to people with slightly tainted credit — rose 159,000, to 836,000.
Over all, more than four million loans worth $717 billion were in the three distressed categories in February, a jump of more than 60 percent in dollar terms compared with a year earlier.
Under a program announced in February by the Obama administration, the government is to spend $75 billion on incentives for mortgage servicing companies that reduce payments for troubled homeowners. The Treasury Department says the program will spare as many as four million homeowners from foreclosure.
But three months after the program was announced, a Treasury spokeswoman, Jenni Engebretsen, estimated the number of loans that have been modified at “more than 10,000 but fewer than 55,000.”
In the first two months of the year alone, another 313,000 mortgages landed in foreclosure or became delinquent at least 90 days, according to First American CoreLogic.
“I don’t think there’s any chance of government measures making more than a small dent,” said Alan Ruskin, chief international strategist at RBS Greenwich Capital.