The shadow inventory of delinquent loans, foreclosures, and REOs stands at 7 million homes, which would take the market more than 40 months to clear, more than three years, according to Fitch Ratings. And as major banks fix recent problems in the foreclosure process, that number will only grow. Liquidation and resolution timelines were extended because of the affidavit issues. Consumer advocacy groups and state attorneys general offices filed lawsuits, and regulators launched investigations. All of it, Fitch said, simply prolonged the housing correction underway and will bring about further house price declines and losses on residential mortgage-backed securities. Fitch analysts looked at the distressed loan inventory in the private-label RMBS market to get the estimate. While those loans represent 25% of the entire mortgage market, trends and issues can be extrapolated to the rest, analysts said. Before the trouble, the total number of troubled loans peaked in early 2010, driven by fewer delinquencies as well as some stabilization in the economy, but when banks began going back over misfiled affidavits the recovery was put on hold. For the 23 judicial states like Florida, the recovery will take longer while problem inventories in states such as California will be resolved quicker. As of September, the average liquidated distressed mortgage took 18 months from the last payment to resale, according to Fitch, the highest number on record. While servicers have shifted their strategy from quick liquidation times to putting more emphasis on modifications, the effectiveness of loan modifications in terms of reducing the eventual total number of liquidations has generally been disappointing. "To date, the majority of modified loans have re-defaulted after one year," according to Fitch. Analysts did say it is still unclear how long the foreclosure delay will last, but even before the problems came to light, Fitch believed prices would drop another 10% with the majority of the recovery coming at the end of 2012. Write to Jon Prior.