Sunday, January 02, 2011

Question #3 for 2011: Delinquencies and Distressed house sales

by Bill McBride on 1/02/2011 02:10:00 PM

Summary for Week ending January 1st
Schedule for Week of January 2, 2011

Two weeks ago I posted some questions for next year: Ten Economic Questions for 2011. These are some topics to think about this year including European debt, and state and local government issues, employment (and unemployment), house prices and more. I'm trying to add some thoughts and a few predictions for each question. Here is number 3:

3) Distressed house sales: Foreclosure activity is very high, although activity has slowed recently - probably because of "foreclosure gate" issues. The number of REOs (Real Estate Owned by lenders) is increasing again, although still below the levels of late 2008. How much will foreclosure activity pick up in 2011? Will the number of REOs peak in 2011 and start to decline?

Here are three charts on REOs. The first is just inventory for Fannie, Freddie and the FHA.

Fannie Freddie FHA REO Inventory Click on graph for larger image in graph gallery.

The REO inventory for the "Fs" increased sharply over the last year, from 153,007 at the end of Q3 2009 to a record 293,171 at the end of Q3 2010.

This just a portion of the total REO inventory. Private label securities and banks and thrifts also hold a substantial number of REOs.

The 2nd chart is an estimate of Fannie, Freddie, FHA and also private-label RMBS REO inventory from economist Tom Lawler. This does not include bank and thrift REO holdings, although those probably increased in Q3 too.

Fannie Freddie FHA REO Inventory
Here are some comments from Tom Lawler:
Recall that back in 2007 and 2008 delinquencies on loans backing PL RMBS exploded upward, and the “timelines” from serious delinquency to in-foreclosure to completed foreclosure sale were much shorter. In addition, servicers of PL RMBS were initially a “little slow” in disposing of SF REO (sticker shock on prices?), and REO exploded upward in the first ten months of 2008.
The third graph (via Lawler) is based on data from Barclays. They break it down differently, but this shows the same pattern as the 2nd chart.

REO Inventory
Obviously for REO there will be two peaks. The first was in late 2008 and largely private-label securities and subprime, and the 2nd will probably be in 2011 and be heavily GSE REOs.

The height of the 2nd peak depends on the number of foreclosures, and the how quickly the lenders can sell the REOs. The foreclosure-gate related moratoriums have slowed the foreclosure process, but foreclosures will probably pick up again in early 2011. My guess is the 2nd peak will happen in 2011 and be close to the same height as in 2008.

One of the key issues is the number of delinquent loans (and loans in the foreclosure process). I use the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) quarterly data and LPS Applied Analytics monthly data to track delinquencies.

MBA Delinquency by PeriodClick on graph for larger image in graph gallery.

This graph based on the MBA quarterly data shows the percent of loans delinquent by days past due. The MBA reported that 13.52 percent of mortgage loans were either one payment delinquent or in the foreclosure process in Q3 2010 (seasonally adjusted). This was down from 14.42 percent in Q2 2010.

Most of the decline in the overall delinquency rate was in the seriously delinquent categories (90+ days or in foreclosure process). Part of the reason is lenders were being more aggressive in foreclosing in Q3 (before the foreclosure pause) - hence the surge in REO inventory in the first graphs! Some of the decline was probably related to modifications too.

Delinquency Rate This graph provided by LPS Applied Analytics shows the percent delinquent, percent in foreclosure, and total non-current mortgages through November.

The percent in the foreclosure process is trending up because of the foreclosure moratoriums.

According to LPS, 9.02% of mortgages are delinquent (down from 9.29% in October), and another 4.08% are in the foreclosure process (up from 3.92% in October) for a total of 13.10%.

With falling house prices, the delinquency rate could start rising again since more homeowners will have negative equity. However just because a homeowner has negative equity doesn't mean they will default. It usually takes another factor such as loss of employment, divorce, or a medical emergency for the homeowner to default.

On the other hand, an improving labor market will help push down the delinquency rate. My guess is the overall delinquency rate has peaked, although I expect the delinquency rate to stay elevated for some time.

Ten Questions:
Question #1 for 2011: House Prices
Question #2 for 2011: Residential Investment
Question #3 for 2011: Delinquencies and Distressed house sales
Question #4 for 2011: U.S. Economic Growth
Question #5 for 2011: Employment
Question #6 for 2011: Unemployment Rate
Question #7 for 2011: State and Local Governments
Question #8 for 2011: Europe and the Euro
Question #9 for 2011: Inflation
Question #10 for 2011: Monetary Policy