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Report: Foreclosure Crisis Only Half Over

The Center for Responsible Lending has released a survey of the foreclosure crisis, and finds that we are probably only halfway through the damage. Here are the major findings of the paper:

The nation is not even halfway through the foreclosure crisis. 6.4 percent of mortgages made between 2004 and 2008 have ended in foreclosure, and an additional 8.3 percent are at immediate, serious risk.

Foreclosure patterns are strongly linked with patterns of risky lending. Foreclosure rates are consistently worse for borrowers who received high-risk loan products that were aggressively marketed before the housing crash.

The majority of people affected by foreclosures have been white families. However, borrowers of color are more than twice as likely to lose their home as white households.

To put the numbers in starker terms, 8.3% translates into 3.6 million households, on top of the 2.7 million who have already faced foreclosure. These are catastrophic numbers. And this goes all the way back to origination. The delinquency rates are much higher for those who have a prepayment penalty on their loan, or those with hybrid or option-ARM (adjustable rate mortgage) loans, or loans with high interest rates. These were all of the tricks of the subprime originators to get people into their loans. And those are the loans which are failing most precipitously. Interestingly, these higher-risk loan types break down by race; African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely to be in the higher-risk loans.

The executive summary is here, the full report is here, and a statistical index is here. The big story is that we’re only halfway through this crisis, with really no end in sight. New foreclosures are now picking up in the states that don’t have a fear of legal liability over foreclosure fraud. The Mortgage Bankers Association estimates that the country is “three to four years away” from a normal amount of foreclosures. That’s despite 6 million homes already lost to foreclosure since 2007.

And if you think the government is about to ride to the rescue, think again. So far the mortgage modification programs have been ineffective. The new refinancing initiative, a tweak to HARP to allow more underwater borrowers to refinance, simply does not look like it will do the job. After the announcement of the actual rules on HARP, prices for mortgage bonds increased. If there were going to be a lot of refinances, that would lower the value of mortgage bonds, so the price would go down. The market has made its bet and it’s hard to argue with them.

So for years and years more, we’re going to see millions of households ruined by foreclosure, at great cost to them, but also to the broader economy. And practically everyone in government plans to stand muted, I guess.

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David Dayen

David Dayen