The percentage of mortgages backed by the FHA that are in default has risen by a third over the last year. According to a report in The Washington Post, “About 9.1 percent of FHA borrowers had missed at least three payments as of December, up from 6.5 percent a year ago, the agency’s figures show.”
Many of the troubled mortgages were granted in 2007 and 2008. Mortgages that are two to three years old apparently carry especially high risks of default because of the high number of loans made during those years to people with extremely low credit scores.
The report adds to the confusion about the direction that the housing market is heading in 2010. RealtyTrac recently reported that forecloses this year may hit 3 million, up from 2.8 million last year. When the company released December 2009 data on January 13th, James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac said, “In the long term a massive supply of delinquent loans continues to loom over the housing market, and many of those delinquencies will end up in the foreclosure process in 2010 and beyond as lenders gradually work their way through the backlog.”
Government data showed that home starts fell 4% in December, but building permits rose. The choppy federal data, which can change direction month by month, has been a hard set of indicators to use to forecast the real estate market in terms of sales and home prices.
The housing market’s future will continue to be plagued by unemployment and over-leveraged consumers, and pressure will also be put on home prices by owners who have underwater mortgages. Some of these mortgage holders may believe that there will never be any equity value in their homes and that they are better off turning their house keys over to the bank. In addition, a wave of $47 billion in interest only loans will reset to full payments this year, according to credit agency Fitch. A portion of these home buyers will not be able to make their new, higher monthly payments.
The FHA news only adds to the probability that 2010 will not be any better for the housing market than 2009 was.