Mortgage Delinquencies Rise Nearly 62 Percent in First Quarter
While it's likely no longer surprising for many market participants, a report by consumer credit bureau TransUnion released Monday found that mortgage delinquencies had increased for the fifth straight quarter during Q1, while consumers managed to add to their overall mortgage debt load during the quarter as well. Borrowers more than 60 days in arrears on their mortgages hit a record high 3.23 percent for the first three months of 2008, TransUnion said -- that's up 8 percent over the previous quarter's 2.99 percent average, and is a staggering 61.5 percent higher than the first quarter 2007. Mortgage borrower delinquency rates in the first quarter of 2008 were highest in Nevada (5.81 percent) followed closely by Florida (5.38 percent), while the lowest mortgage delinquency rates were found in North Dakota (1.17 percent), Wyoming (1.41 percent) and South Dakota (1.48 percent). Delinquency trends clearly mirror the regional distress being felt in key states, although it's worth noting that even states with comparatively lower rates of mortgage distress are still exhibiting historically high amounts of borrower delinquencies. Somewhat confoundingly, the average national mortgage debt per mortgage borrower rose slightly to $191,917 from the previous quarter's $191,370 total, TransUnion reported; the first quarter 2008 average represents a 5.38 percent increase in average mortgage debt load compared to the first quarter 2007 of $182,126. The credit bureau suggested in a press statement that increasing mortgage debt is the result of consumers' expectation that perhaps 2008 could represent a year with excellent buying opportunities. It also could reflect the distress being felt by consumers, many of whom are seeing their reported loan balances increase due to workouts or loan recapitalization, sources suggested to Housing Wire. "The market continues to see the effect of the mortgage crisis across the country as delinquency rates again increased over the previous period," said Keith Carson, a senior consultant in TransUnion's financial services group. "However, this increase was not as substantial as was seen between the third and fourth quarters of 2007, possibly reflecting the impact of a tightening in the lending policies of financial institutions." Delinquencies grew the fastest in Alaska, of all places, during the first quarter -- rising 28.4 percent, enough to top rising delinquencies in California, which saw DQs jump 25.4 percent, and Nevada, where DQs jump 24.1 percent. Carson said that he expected the national deliquency rate to top 4 percent by the end of 2008, and then stabilize in 2009 as home prices bounce off of what the credit bureau is predicting as a bottom in housing prices.