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Equifax: HELOC Origination Down 36%

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Origination of new home equity lines of credit (HELOC) accounts is down 36% from year-ago levels, Equifax (EFX) said. There were 75,600 HELOC accounts originated in September 2009, down from 117,800 in September 2008, according to the Atlanta-based credit bureau’s most recent monthly credit trend report, derived from Equifax's nearly 200m US consumer credit files. Year-to-date HELOC accounts opened through September totaled 761,000, a 47% decline from the same period of 2008, when 1.5m accounts were originated. For all of 2008, 1.7m lines opened, 41% below the total in 2007, 2.9m. Equifax said the drop in origination is due to both a decline in property values and an consumer mentality evolving away from taking on more debt. “The contraction in home equity lines is a reflection of the credit crunch both consumers and small businesses are facing,” said Dann Adams, president of Equifax's US Consumer Information Solutions subsidiary. “Restrictions in this traditional source of financing make finding credit harder than ever.” Lenders are limiting HELOC accounts to low-risk borrowers. An overwhelming majority — 81% — of consumers that opened HELOC accounts had credit scores of 740 or above, a jump from 66% in September 2007. However, delinquency rates increased from 3.39% in October to 3.43% in November, higher than the 2.95% rate in November 2008 and the 1.92% rate in November 2007. Equifax estimates there were 13.65m open HELOC accounts in September, a decline of 855,000 from one year ago and a loss of $68bn in available credit to borrowers. In addition, HELOC limits declined 25% over the past two years from an average $105,000 to $79,000. “The story of 2009 continues to be one of consumer retrenchment and credit tightness as people strive to pay down debt or are forced to abandon it, and lenders more aggressively manage risk in their portfolios,” Adams said. Originations declined even further in states were property values have plunged, particularly in California and Florida. California homeowners accounted for nearly 20% of HELOC originations during the first nine months of 2007, with 38,000 new accounts. But during the same period in 2009, only 5,182 HELOC accounts opened, 7% of total industry volume. Florida once ranked second in total HELOC originations, but now sits ninth. Other results from the monthly report indicate a record 7.91% of US mortgages are 30 or more days late in November, up from 7.76% in October and 7.65% in September. In November 2008, 5.83% of mortgages were 30 or more days late. In November 2007, 3.93% of mortgages were 30 or more days late. Write to Austin Kilgore. The author held no relevant investments.

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