Fitch Warns on Option ARMs; “High Defaults Await”

Fitch Ratings on Tuesday released a wide-ranging look at option ARMs that paints a decidedly negative picture for the mortgage markets over the next 36 months. In fact, the picture is a downright scary one: the bottom line is that most outstanding neg-am mortgages won’t get out of 2011 alive, thanks to forced recasts. Fitch analysts said they now expect roughly $29 billion in option ARMs to recast to higher monthly payments by the end of 2009, and an additional $67 billion to recast in 2010; of this, approximately $53 billion is attributed to early recasts. “Though recent declines in the 12-month Treasury average rates have mitigated some risks, the majority of option ARM borrowers have elected to make the monthly minimum payment over the past 24 months,” Fitch said in the report. “As a result, a large number of these loans, especially those with 40-year amortization and 110% principal caps are expected to reach their recasts before the end of the five-year mark.” The result? Fitch said it expects 90-day plus delinquencies — already ranging from 10 percent to 24 percent, depending on vintage — to more than double after recast for 2004-2007 vintage loans. It gets worse: Fitch also estimated that the potential average payment increase on the re-casting loans to be 63 percent, representing on average an additional $1,053 due each month. “The combined impact of payment shock, negative amortization, declining home prices and restricted availability of mortgage credit may leave many option ARMs’ borrowers unwilling to continue paying their mortgage,” said group managing director Huxley Somerville. “Also, because of their use as an affordability product, option ARM defaults will likely spread into higher priced neighborhoods, as many borrowers leveraged the very low minimum monthly payment to buy more expensive homes.” Below is a graphic that shows updated recast volume estimates.

Notice the 2011 recasts
Notice the 2011 recasts, source: Fitch Ratings
Related link: Full Fitch Ratings report

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