Obama housing stats underscore the fragility of the market
Mortgage delinquencies along with foreclosure-related activity are dropping compared to a year ago, according to the Obama administration's most recent housing scorecard. But experts are unwilling to say the figures signal positivity in the market. Department of Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary Raphael Bostic said February's stats undermine the true fragility of the marketplace. Both HUD and the Treasury Department compile data for the monthly scorecard. Delinquencies on prime mortgages declined to 4.8% from 6.7% one year prior. Subprime and Federal Housing Administration delinquencies also dropped against the year-ago period, down to 35.1% and 12.2%, respectively. Delinquencies continued the downward trend set in January. Almost 65,000 foreclosures were completed during February, while 63,000 properties received a notice of default and 97,000 received a notice of foreclosure sale. These figures are down 18%, 40.4%, and 21.3%, respectively from February 2010. Housing remained extremely affordable in February, as mortgage interest rates hovered near record lows. But the housing market "remains fragile," the administration's scorecard said, because of unsettled home prices nationwide. The median home sale price fell 3.1% during January, according to the latest Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index. The data show only the Washington and San Diego metropolitan areas witnessed price gains. More than 4.4 million modification arrangements were started between April 2009 and the end of February — more than double the number of completed foreclosures during the 11 months. These included more than 1.5 million trial Home Affordable Modification Program starts, more than 776,000 FHA loss-mitigation and early-delinquency interventions, and more than 1.9 million proprietary modifications under Hope Now. Bostic commended the administration on its efforts to offer alternatives to foreclosure, but acknowledged there is still more work to be done. "While we should not ignore the real impact that the Obama administration’s programs are having for millions of homeowners and borrowers, these statistics clearly show that housing markets across the country continue to struggle to regain stable footing," Bostic said. Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.