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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bankrupt!: Ominous Housing Market Bubble


2 Million Homeowners Facing Foreclosure


A new Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) study reveals that 2.2 million American households are likely to lose their homes and as much as $164 billion due to foreclosures in the subprime mortgage market.

The CRL study is the first comprehensive, nationwide review of millions of subprime mortgages originated from 1998 through the third quarter of 2006.

CRL's research suggests that risky lending practices have triggered the worst foreclosure crisis in the modern mortgage market, projecting that one out of five (19.4%) subprime loans issued during 2005-2006 will fail.

"In the subprime sector, the most vulnerable borrowers are sold the most dangerous loans," said Mike Calhoun, CRL president. "At $164 billion, the losses from foreclosures could pay for the college educations of four million kids. For families who lose their houses because their loans fail, savings and economic security will be way out of reach."

The report discusses a number of factors that drive subprime foreclosures -- in the majority of cases, borrowers receive high-risk loan features, packed into an adjustable rate mortgage with a low start rate, that is approved without considering whether the homeowner can afford to pay the loan after the rate rises.


Adjustable rate mortgages known as 2/28s (or "exploding ARMs") operate with an initial "teaser" rate for two years, followed by a steep payment increase. And, regardless of a borrower's credit history, the almost one-quarter of American families who get subprime loans find them crammed with other high- risk terms such as prepayment penalties, limited income documentation, and no escrow for property taxes and hazard insurance.

In recent years, high appreciation in many areas has masked problems in the subprime market. CRL projects that the cooling housing market, will cause failure rates to rise sharply in many major markets. California, Arizona, Nevada, and greater Washington, DC will be especially hard hit.

Trouble in the overall subprime market spells trouble for African American and Latino families across the country. Although white families receive more subprime loans overall, blacks and Latinos receive a higher proportion of high-cost loans than any other group, a fact consistently verified annually by data lenders submit under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA).

The report, "Losing Ground," estimates that 8 to 10 percent of all black and Latino families who received a home loan in 2005 will be affected by subprime foreclosures.

"Homeownership rates for minorities are up but so, too, is the cost of that homeownership," said Wade Henderson, executive director of Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. "We need rules to curb predatory lenders, but we also need prime lenders to step up for this expanding market of borrowers."


And It's Not Just the Subprime At Risk


The delinquency rate for residential mortgage stood at 4.67 percent of all loans outstanding in the third quarter of 2006 on a seasonally adjusted basis. That's up 28 basis points from the second quarter, and up 23 basis points from one year ago, according to Mortgage Bankers Association's National Delinquency Survey.

"The housing market continued to normalize in the third quarter of 2006. Although labor markets remain strong, the pace of job growth has slowed, as has the home price appreciation rate which has decreased in response to higher interest rates and rising inventories of unsold homes," said Doug Duncan, MBA's Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Research and Business Development. "Some states experienced home price declines in the third quarter, and a few have experienced declines over the past six months."

The percentage of loans in the foreclosure process was 1.05 percent of all loans outstanding at the end of the third quarter, an increase of six basis points from the second quarter of 2006, while the SA rate of loans entering the foreclosure process was 0.46 percent, three basis points higher than the previous quarter.

Compared with the third quarter of 2005, the percentage of loans in the foreclosure process was up eight basis points while the percentage of loans entering the foreclosure process was up five basis points. This quarter's NDS results cover over 42.6 million loans (32.6 million prime loans, 5.8 million subprime loans and 4.2 million government loans).

The delinquency rate increased during the third quarter for all loan types. The delinquency rate increased 15 basis points for prime loans (from 2.29 percent to 2.44 percent), increased 86 basis points for subprime loans (from 11.70 percent to 12.56 percent), increased 35 basis points for FHA loans (from 12.45 percent to 12.80 percent), and increased 23 basis points for VA loans (from 6.35 percent to 6.58 percent).

During the third quarter of 2006, the foreclosure inventory rate increased across the range of loans. The foreclosure inventory rate increased three basis points for prime loans (from 0.41 percent to 0.44 percent), 30 basis points for subprime loans (from 3.56 percent to 3.86 percent), eight basis points for FHA loans (from 2.20 percent to 2.28 percent), and two basis points for VA loans (from 1.10 percent to 1.12 percent).

Subprime Lender Implosion: Bad Omen For Housing Market


Subprime lenders have been both blessing and bane in the housing industry for many years, enabling lenders to rake in huge profits while saddling consumers with exorbitant loan terms and high interest rates.



Now, as the housing market slows to a crawl, many subprime lenders are collapsing faster than homes made of substandard materials, and the signs point to even more pain in the housing market as a result.

Mortgage Lenders Network USA (MLN) announced it was shutting its doors this week, as a result of market economics the lender said were "not good ... it deals with the performance of loans, and to a lesser extent the value of homes."

The last few months have seen a flurry of subprime lenders shut their doors, declare bankruptcy, or engage in mass layoffs as the housing market freezes up. Ameriquest, formerly the country's largest subprime lender, collapsed quickly after its former CEO, Ronald Arnall, was appointed by President Bush to be ambassador to the Netherlands. Other subprime lenders potentially on the chopping block include Countrywide Financial and H&R Block's mortgage unit Option One.

Subprime mortgage lending grew an average of 25% a year from 1994 to 2003 and now is a more-than-$330-billion-a-year industry that provides about 1 in 9 U.S. mortgages. The growth has helped broaden homeownership — nearly 70% of American homes are occupied by their owners — and given a boost to minority home buying.

Subprime lenders provide mortgages or home equity loans to people, including high-income borrowers, who don't qualify for conventional financing. Such lenders accept credit scores below the 620-660 threshold generally needed for prime financing and require less-stringent income documentation.

But critics say many of the subprime lenders' clients could qualify for conventional loans. Subprime lenders offer mortgage rates that sometimes range into double digits, though they can be as low as 6% to 7% for those with near-prime credit. Costs rise, often steeply, as credit scores fall.

The failures of subprime lenders are bad tidings for the housing market as a whole. Although economists and realtors continue to claim that the housing market slump has hit bottom, many still see delinquencies on the horizon.


Sources: ConsumerAffairs.com and USAToday.com

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