Mortgage foreclosures in the U.S. jumped to a record in the first half as rising interest rates and falling home prices battered homeowners.
Almost 926,000 foreclosure notices were filed, 56 percent more than a year earlier and the most since Irvine, California- based RealtyTrac started tracking the data in 2005. Foreclosures were the highest last month in California and Florida, where some home prices have fallen as much as 25 percent, and Ohio and Michigan, where the automotive industry fired more than 50,000 people in the past 10 years.
The jump in 30-year mortgage rates by more than a half a percentage point since May is putting a crimp on borrowers with the best credit just as a crackdown in subprime lending standards limits the pool of qualified buyers. Foreclosures also are increasing as the supply of unsold homes hit a record 4.43 million in May, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Foreclosure rates in “most states remained substantially above last year’s levels,” RealtyTrac Chief Executive Officer James Saccacio said in a statement.
In June, defaults surged 87 percent to 164,644 from a year ago, said RealtyTrac, a seller of foreclosure data, in the statement today. Last month’s total was 7 percent lower than in May. California, Florida, Ohio and Michigan accounted for half the national total in June.
Homeowners are losing their property as the National Association of Realtors is forecasting the housing slump will persist into next year as builders curtail production. The group yesterday reduced its sales forecast for the seventh consecutive month and said existing home sales will fall 5.6 percent.
The rise in defaults has spurred credit ratings services to take action. Moody’s Investors Service yesterday said it may downgrade $5 billion of collateralized debt obligations after lowering the ratings on subprime mortgage bonds that make up the securities.
A cut would affect 184 pieces of 91 CDOs, representing about 3.6 percent of rated CDOs containing asset-backed securities, Moody’s said. Moody’s on July 10 sliced ratings on $5.2 billion of subprime bonds that back CDOs.
Investors have criticized Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings because their ratings on bonds backed by mortgages to people with poor or limited credit don’t reflect the fastest default rate in a decade.
U.S. home prices will drop 1.4 percent this year and housing starts will tumble in 2008 amid higher mortgage rates and a glut of properties for sale, the National Association of Realtors said yesterday. The Chicago-based group said the median home price was $223,700 in May, a 2.1 percent decrease from a year earlier.
An estimated 58 percent of properties in the foreclosure process are linked to borrowers with subprime loans, and RealtyTrac expects U.S. foreclosures to reach 1.8 million by year’s end, Rick Sharga, a spokesman for the company, said in an interview.
“We’re running much further ahead of what we had anticipated in terms of year-over-year,” Sharga said. “Historically, 40 percent of properties entering default make it as far as auction, with half of those going back to banks and the other half to investors.”
Lenders typically begin default proceedings against homeowners after mortgage payments are 90 days late. The foreclosure process varies by state, ranging from 21 days in Texas to an average of 455 days in New York, Sharga said.
Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate in June with one filing for every 175 households, more than four times the national average of one per 704, RealtyTrac said. Nevada had 4,722 foreclosure filings, more than three times its total a year ago.
California had the second-highest rate, with one filing per 315 households, and the most filings overall, 38,801, for the sixth month in a row. Foreclosures in California, the most populous state, increased almost three-fold over a year ago.
Colorado had the third-highest rate with one foreclosure per 317 households. Florida was fourth with one per 347, followed by Arizona with one per 383, Ohio with one per 403 and Michigan with one per 420.
Six of the top 10 U.S. foreclosure rates for metropolitan areas were in California. Stockton, Merced, Modesto and Riverside- San Bernardino occupied the top four spots. Vallejo-Fairfield was seventh and Sacramento eighth.
Las Vegas had the fifth-highest foreclosure rate, Greeley, Colorado was sixth, Detroit was ninth and Miami was 10th. Bloomberg