Friday, June 12, 2009

Study: Home Equity Borrowers in Danger

by Bill McBride on 6/12/2009 10:54:00 PM

"The conventional view is that housing appreciation is good because it reduces (default) risk. Not according to my theory, which is housing appreciation is bad. It encourages junior-lien borrowing. When appreciation stops, somebody is going to be left in a bad position."
Michael LaCour-Little, finance professor at Cal State Fullerton (emphasis added)
From Matt Padilla at the O.C. Register: Second mortgages: Lines of danger?
Record foreclosures hitting Orange County involve more than just newbie buyers who got in over their heads.

Some housing watchers say evidence is mounting that even veteran homeowners got caught up in housing euphoria and now are paying for it.

The latest argument comes from Michael LaCour-Little, a finance professor at Cal State Fullerton. He is lead author of a new study, which found that during the housing boom some long-time owners borrowed against all their property's equity gain, or paper profits. They treated their houses like cash machines.
...
It's long been assumed that homebuyers who purchased at housing's peak with little money down are among the most likely to face foreclosure. They owed more than their property was worth once prices tanked.

But the study concludes 'cashing-out' is about as predictive of foreclosure for the same reason: negative equity.
And look at these numbers:
Professor LaCour-Little tracked all houses and condos set for foreclosure auctions, known as trustee's sales, in the first two weeks of November 2006, 2007 and 2008 in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. ...

For the early November 2008 data sample, he tracked 2,358 properties and found 79 percent of borrowers had at least a second mortgage. Some also had third and fourth liens. ...

The 2008 foreclosures were purchased in "median" year 2004, meaning half the purchases were before and half after. That suggests more than half the purchases were before housing's peak in 2005 and 2006.
There will be many foreclosures of homes bought before the bubble (or in the early stages of the bubble), because the homeowners extracted too much equity from the home. This is not surprising, but probably means more foreclosures than policymakers expect.