Share of disposable income going to mortgage debt hits lowest level since 1980

S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices show drop in mortgage defaults

Americans are “paying more attention” to their debts in the wake of the financial crisis, and because of that increased attention, the share of consumers’ disposable income that’s going to mortgage debt is now at its lowest level in 35 years.

The data comes courtesy of the latest S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices, which is a comprehensive measure of changes in consumer credit defaults.

The latest report, which included data through April 2016, shows that the mortgage debt service ratio – the percentage of disposable income going to service mortgage debt – hasn’t been this low since 1980.

The report also shows that the national mortgage default rate is lower than what it was before the housing crisis began, according to David Blitzer, the managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

“Since the financial crisis, consumers are paying more attention to their debts, particularly longer term financial commitments such as homes and autos,” Blitzer said. “The Total Debt Service Ratio, which includes loans with scheduled payments, is close to a record low. The savings rate is now at about 5% of disposable income, slightly higher than its level in 2004-2006.”

According to the S&P/Experian report, on a national level, first mortgage defaults reported a 0.69% rate for April, which was down from 0.77% in March.

One year ago, the index sat at 0.83%.

For second mortgages, the default index was 0.58% for April, down one basis point from March, but up from 0.43% in April 2015.

Additionally, the report showed that the composite default index was 0.86% in April, down from 0.93% in March.

The report also showed that auto loan defaults recorded a 0.97% default rate, down five basis points from March. The bank card default rate increased 17 basis points in April and 60 basis points year-to-date, recording a default rate of 3.09%.

On a more granular level, the report showed that three of the five major cities saw their overall default rates increase during the month of April.

Miami reported a default rate of 1.21%, up six basis points from March. New York recorded a default rate of 1.01% in April, up two basis points from the prior month.

Dallas reported a default rate of 0.76%, a one basis point increase from the previous month.

Chicago’s default rate remained flat at 1.03% in April. Los Angeles was the only city to report a default rate decrease, with a 0.71% default rate, down 10 basis points from March.

“In contrast to the low default rates on mortgages and auto loans, bank cards recently showed increased default rates,” Blitzer said.

“The longer term post-crisis decline in the bank card default rate leveled off in 2014. Since then, it has been in a range of 2.5% to 3.2%,” Blitzer said. “Bank card, auto, and mortgage default rates are all lower than their pre-financial crisis levels. However, the bank card rate is more volatile than the others and more sensitive to consumer spending trends. Whether the default pattern for bank cards stabilizes remains to be seen.”

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