by janet | Apr 27, 2023 | Distressed Properties, Foreclosures, Housing Market Updates
You’ve likely seen headlines about the number of foreclosures climbing in today’s housing market. That may leave you with a few questions, especially if you’re thinking about buying a house. Understanding what they really mean is mission-critical if you want to know the truth about what’s happening today.
According to a recent report from ATTOM, a property data provider, foreclosure filings are up 6% compared to the previous quarter and 22% since one year ago. As media headlines call attention to this increase, reporting on just the number could actually generate worry and may even make you think twice about buying a home for fear that prices could crash. The reality is, while increasing, the data shows a foreclosure crisis is not where the market is headed.
Let’s look at the latest information with context so we can see how this compares to previous years.
It Isn’t the Dramatic Increase Headlines Would Have You Believe
In recent years, the number of foreclosures has been down to record lows. That’s because, in 2020 and 2021, the forbearance program and other relief options for homeowners helped millions of homeowners stay in their homes, allowing them to get back on their feet during a very challenging period. And with home values rising at the same time, many homeowners who may have found themselves facing foreclosure under other circumstances were able to leverage their equity and sell their houses rather than face foreclosure. Moving forward, equity will continue to be a factor that can help keep people from going into foreclosure.
As the government’s moratorium came to an end, there was an expected rise in foreclosures. But just because foreclosures are up doesn’t mean the housing market is in trouble. As Clare Trapasso, Executive News Editor at Realtor.com, says:
“There’s no reason to panic, at least not yet. Foreclosure filings began ticking up . . . after the federal foreclosure moratorium ended. The moratorium was enacted in the early days of COVID-19, when millions of Americans lost their jobs, to prevent a tsunami of homeowners losing their properties. So some of these proceedings would have taken place during the pandemic but got delayed due to the moratorium. This is a bit of a catch-up.”
Basically, there’s not a sudden flood of foreclosures coming. Instead, some of the increase is due to the delayed activity explained above while more is from economic conditions. As Rob Barber, CEO of ATTOM, explains:
“This unfortunate trend can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as rising unemployment rates, foreclosure filings making their way through the pipeline after two years of government intervention, and other ongoing economic challenges. However, with many homeowners still having significant home equity, that may help in keeping increased levels of foreclosure activity at bay.”
To further paint the picture of just how different the situation is now compared to the housing crash, take a look at the graph below. It shows foreclosure activity has been lower since the crash by looking at properties with a foreclosure filing going all the way back to 2005.
While foreclosures are climbing, it’s clear foreclosure activity now is nothing like it was during the housing crisis. In addition to all of the factors mentioned above, that’s also largely because buyers today are more qualified and less likely to default on their loans.
Today, foreclosures are far below the record-high number that was reported when the housing market crashed.
Right now, putting the data into context is more important than ever. While the housing market is experiencing an expected rise in foreclosures, it’s nowhere near the crisis levels seen when the housing bubble burst, and that won’t lead to a crash in home prices.
by janet | Nov 30, 2022 | Buyers & Sellers, Distressed Properties, Foreclosures
With the rapid shift that’s happened in the housing market this year, some people are raising concerns that we’re destined for a repeat of the crash we saw in 2008. But in truth, there are many key differences between what’s happening today and the bubble in the early 2000s.
One of the reasons this isn’t like the last time is the number of foreclosures in the market is much lower now. Here’s a look at why there won’t be a wave of foreclosures flooding the market.
Not as Many Homeowners Are in Trouble This Time
After the last housing crash, over nine million households lost their homes due to a foreclosure, short sale, or because they gave it back to the bank. This was, in large part, because of more relaxed lending standards where people could take out mortgages they ultimately couldn’t afford. Those lending practices led to a wave of distressed properties which made their way into the market and caused home values to plummet.
But today, revised lending standards have led to more qualified buyers. As a result, there are fewer homeowners who are behind on their mortgages. As Marina Walsh, Vice President of Industry Analysis at the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), says:
“For the second quarter in a row, the mortgage delinquency rate fell to its lowest level since MBA’s survey began in 1979 – declining to 3.45%. Foreclosure starts and loans in the process of foreclosure also dropped in the third quarter to levels further below their historical averages.”
There Have Been Fewer Foreclosures over the Last Two Years
While you may have seen recent stories about the number of foreclosures rising today, context is important. During the pandemic, many homeowners were able to pause their mortgage payments using the forbearance program. The program gave homeowners facing difficulties extra time to get their finances in order and, in many cases, work out a plan with their lender.
With that program, many were concerned it would result in a wave of foreclosures coming to the market. That fear didn’t materialize. Data from the New York Fed shows there are still fewer foreclosures happening today than before the pandemic (see graph below):
That means, while there are more foreclosures now compared to last year (when foreclosures were paused), the number is still well below what the housing market has seen in a more typical year, like 2017-2019.
And most importantly, the number we’re seeing now is still far below the number we saw during the market crash (shown in the red bars in the graph). The big takeaway? Don’t let a headline in the news mislead you. While foreclosures are up year-over-year, historical context is essential to understanding the full picture.
Most Homeowners Have More Than Enough Equity To Sell Their Homes
Many homeowners today have enough equity to sell their homes instead of facing foreclosure. Due to rapidly rising home prices over the last two years, the average homeowner has gained record amounts of equity in their home. And if they’ve stayed in their homes even longer, they may have even more equity than they realize. As Ksenia Potapov, Economist at First American, says:
“Homeowners have very high levels of tappable home equity today, providing a cushion to withstand potential price declines, but also preventing housing distress from turning into a foreclosure. . . the result will likely be more of a foreclosure ‘trickle’ than a ‘tsunami.’”
A recent report from ATTOM Data explains it by going even deeper into the numbers:
“Only about 214,800 homeowners were facing possible foreclosure in the second quarter of 2022, or just four-tenths of one percent of the 58.2 million outstanding mortgages in the U.S. Of those facing foreclosure, about 195,400, or 91 percent, had at least some equity built up in their homes.”
If you see headlines about the increasing number of foreclosures today, remember context is important. While it’s true the number of foreclosures is higher now than it was last year, foreclosures are still well below pre-pandemic years. If you have questions, reach out to a real estate professional.
by janet | Aug 8, 2022 | Distressed Properties, Foreclosures, Housing Market Updates
When the pandemic hit in 2020, many experts thought the housing market would crash. They feared job loss and economic uncertainty would lead to a wave of foreclosures similar to when the housing bubble burst over a decade ago. Thankfully, the forbearance program changed that. It provided much-needed relief for homeowners so a foreclosure crisis wouldn’t happen again. Here’s why forbearance worked.
Forbearance enabled nearly five million homeowners to get back on their feet in a time when having the security and protection of a home was more important than ever. Those in need were able to work with their banks and lenders to stay in their homes rather than go into foreclosure. Marina Walsh, Vice President of Industry Analysis at the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), notes:
“Most borrowers exiting forbearance are moving into either a loan modification, payment deferral, or a combination of the two workout options.”
As the graph below shows, with modification, deferral, and workout options in place, four out of every five homeowners in forbearance are either paid in full or are exiting with a plan. They’re able to stay in their homes.
What does this mean for the housing market?
Since so many people can stay in their homes and work out alternative options, there won’t be a wave of foreclosures coming to the market. And while rising slightly since the foreclosure moratorium was lifted this year, foreclosures today are still nowhere near the levels seen in the housing crisis.
Forbearance wasn’t the only game changer, either. Lending standards have improved significantly since the housing bubble burst, and that’s one more thing keeping foreclosure filings low. Today’s borrowers are much more qualified to pay their home loans.
And while the majority of homeowners are exiting the forbearance program with a plan, for those who still need to make a change due to financial hardship or other challenges, today’s record-level of equity is giving them the opportunity to sell their houses and avoid foreclosure altogether. Homeowners have options they just didn’t have in the housing crisis when so many people owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth. Thanks to their equity and the current undersupply of homes on the market, homeowners can sell their houses, make a move, and not have to go through the foreclosure process that led to the housing market crash in 2008.
Thomas LaSalvia, Chief Economist with Moody’s Analytics, states:
“There’s some excess savings out there, over 2 trillion worth. . . . There are people that have ownership of those homes right now, that even in a downturn, they’d still likely be able to pay that mortgage and won’t have to hand over keys. And there won’t be a lot of those distressed sales that happened in the 2008 crisis.”
The forbearance program was a game changer for homeowners in need. It’s one of the big reasons why we won’t see a wave of foreclosures coming to the market.
by janet | May 12, 2022 | Distressed Properties, Foreclosures, Housing Market Updates
While you may have seen recent stories about the volume of foreclosures today, context is important. During the pandemic, many homeowners were able to pause their mortgage payments using the forbearance program. The goal was to help homeowners financially during the uncertainty created by the health crisis.
When the forbearance program began, many experts were concerned it would result in a wave of foreclosures coming to the market, as there was after the housing crash in 2008. Here’s a look at why the number of foreclosures we’re seeing today is nothing like the last time.
1. There Are Fewer Homeowners in Trouble
Today’s data shows that most homeowners are exiting their forbearance plan either fully caught up on payments or with a plan from the bank that restructured their loan in a way that allowed them to start making payments again. The graph below depicts those findings from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA):
The same MBA report mentioned above estimates there are approximately 525,000 homeowners who remain in forbearance today. Thankfully, those people still have the chance to work out a suitable repayment plan with the servicing company that represents their lender.
2. Most Homeowners Have Enough Equity To Sell Their Homes
For those who are exiting the forbearance program without a plan in place, many will have enough equity to sell their homes instead of facing foreclosures. Due to rapidly rising home prices over the last two years, the average homeowner has gained record amounts of equity in their home.
Marina Walsh, CMB, Vice President of Industry Analysis at MBA, says:
“Given the nation’s limited housing inventory and the variety of home retention and foreclosure alternatives on the table across various loan types, . . . Borrowers have more choices today to either stay in their homes or sell without resorting to a foreclosure.”
3. There Have Been Fewer Foreclosures over the Last Two Years
One of the seldom-reported benefits of the forbearance program was it gave homeowners facing difficulties an extra two years to get their finances in order and work out a plan with their lender. That helped prevent the foreclosures that normally would have come to the market had the new forbearance program not been available.
Even as people leave the forbearance program, there are still fewer foreclosures happening today than before the pandemic. That means, while there are more foreclosures now compared to last year (when foreclosures were paused), the number is still well below what the housing market has seen in a more typical year, like 2017-2019 (see graph below):
4. The Current Market Can Easily Absorb New Listings
When the foreclosures in 2008 hit the market, they added to the oversupply of houses that were already for sale. It’s exactly the opposite today. The latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reveals:
“Total housing inventory at the end of March totaled 950,000 units, up 11.8% from February and down 9.5% from one year ago (1.05 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 2.0-month supply at the present sales pace, up from 1.7 months in February and down from 2.1 months in March 2021.”
A balanced market would have approximately a six-month supply of inventory. At 2.0 months, today’s housing market is severely understocked. Even if one million homes enter the market, there still won’t be enough inventory to meet the current demand.
If you see headlines about the increasing number of foreclosures today, remember context is important. While it’s true the number of foreclosures is higher now than it was last year, foreclosures are still well below pre-pandemic years.
If you have questions, reach out to a real estate professional who can help explain the latest market conditions and what they mean for you.
by janet | Nov 4, 2021 | Distressed Properties, Foreclosures, Housing Market Updates
With forbearance plans coming to an end, many are concerned the housing market will experience a wave of foreclosures similar to what happened after the housing bubble 15 years ago. Here are a few reasons why that won’t happen.
There are fewer homeowners in trouble this time
After the last housing crash, about 9.3 million households lost their homes to a foreclosure, short sale, or because they simply gave it back to the bank.
As stay-at-home orders were issued early last year, the fear was the pandemic would impact the housing industry in a similar way. Many projected up to 30% of all mortgage holders would enter the forbearance program. In reality, only 8.5% actually did, and that number is now down to 2.2%.
As of last Friday, the total number of mortgages still in forbearance stood at 1,221,000. That’s far fewer than the 9.3 million households that lost their homes just over a decade ago.
Most of the mortgages in forbearance have enough equity to sell their homes
Due to rapidly rising home prices over the last two years, of the 1.22 million homeowners currently in forbearance, 93% have at least 10% equity in their homes. This 10% equity is important because it enables homeowners to sell their homes and pay the related expenses instead of facing the hit on their credit that a foreclosure or short sale would create.
The remaining 7% might not have the option to sell, but if the entire 7% of those 1.22 million homes went into foreclosure, that would total about 85,400 mortgages. To give that number context, here are the annual foreclosure numbers for the three years leading up to the pandemic:
- 2017: 314,220
- 2018: 279,040
- 2019: 277,520
The probable number of foreclosures coming out of the forbearance program is nowhere near the number of foreclosures that impacted the housing crash 15 years ago. It’s actually less than one-third of any of the three years prior to the pandemic.
The current market can absorb listings coming to the market
When foreclosures hit the market back in 2008, there was an oversupply of houses for sale. It’s exactly the opposite today. In 2008, there was over a nine-month supply of listings on the market. Today, that number is less than a three-month supply. Here’s a graph showing the difference between the two markets.
The data indicates why Ivy Zelman, founder of the major housing market analytical firm Zelman and Associates, was on point when she stated:
“The likelihood of us having a foreclosure crisis again is about zero percent.”
by janet | Feb 9, 2021 | Buyers & Sellers, Distressed Properties, Foreclosures
Home values appreciated by about ten percent in 2020, and they’re forecast to appreciate by about five percent this year. This has some voicing concern that we may be in another housing bubble like the one we experienced a little over a decade ago. Here are three reasons why this market is totally different.
1. This time, housing supply is extremely limited
The price of any market item is determined by supply and demand. If supply is high and demand is low, prices normally decrease. If supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.
In real estate, supply and demand are measured in “months’ supply of inventory,” which is based on the number of current homes for sale compared to the number of buyers in the market. The normal months’ supply of inventory for the market is about 6 months. Anything above that defines a buyers’ market, indicating prices will soften. Anything below that defines a sellers’ market in which prices normally appreciate.
Between 2006 and 2008, the months’ supply of inventory increased from just over 5 months to 11 months. The months’ supply was over 7 months in twenty-seven of those thirty-six months, yet home values continued to rise.
Months’ inventory has been under 5 months for the last 3 years, under 4 for thirteen of the last fourteen months, under 3 for the last six months, and currently stands at 1.9 months – a historic low.
Remember, if supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.
2. This time, housing demand is real
During the housing boom in the mid-2000s, there was what Robert Schiller, a fellow at the Yale School of Management’s International Center for Finance, called “irrational exuberance.” The definition of the term is, “unfounded market optimism that lacks a real foundation of fundamental valuation, but instead rests on psychological factors.” Without considering historic market trends, people got caught up in the frenzy and bought houses based on an unrealistic belief that housing values would continue to escalate.
The mortgage industry fed into this craziness by making mortgage money available to just about anyone, as shown in the Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) published by the Mortgage Bankers Association. The higher the index, the easier it is to get a mortgage; the lower the index, the more difficult it is to obtain one. Prior to the housing boom, the index stood just below 400. In 2006, the index hit an all-time high of over 868. Again, just about anyone could get a mortgage. Today, the index stands at 122.5, which is well below even the pre-boom level.
In the current real estate market, demand is real, not fabricated. Millennials, the largest generation in the country, have come of age to marry and have children, which are two major drivers for homeownership. The health crisis is also challenging every household to redefine the meaning of “home” and to re-evaluate whether their current home meets that new definition. This desire to own, coupled with historically low mortgage rates, makes purchasing a home today a strong, sound financial decision. Therefore, today’s demand is very real.
Remember, if supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.
3. This time, households have plenty of equity
Again, during the housing boom, it wasn’t just purchasers who got caught up in the frenzy. Existing homeowners started using their homes like ATM machines. There was a wave of cash-out refinances, which enabled homeowners to leverage the equity in their homes. From 2005 through 2007, Americans pulled out $824 billion dollars in equity. That left many homeowners with little or no equity in their homes at a critical time. As prices began to drop, some homeowners found themselves in a negative equity situation where the mortgage was higher than the value of their home. Many defaulted on their payments, which led to an avalanche of foreclosures.
Today, the banks and the American people have shown they learned a valuable lesson from the housing crisis a little over a decade ago. Cash-out refinance volume over the last three years was less than a third of what it was compared to the 3 years leading up to the crash.
This conservative approach has created levels of equity never seen before. According to Census Bureau data, over 38% of owner-occupied housing units are owned ‘free and clear’ (without any mortgage). Also, ATTOM Data Solutions just released their fourth quarter 2020 U.S. Home Equity Report, which revealed:
“17.8 million residential properties in the United States were considered equity-rich, meaning that the combined estimated amount of loans secured by those properties was 50 percent or less of their estimated market value…The count of equity-rich properties in the fourth quarter of 2020 represented 30.2 percent, or about one in three, of the 59 million mortgaged homes in the United States.”
If we combine the 38% of homes that are owned free and clear with the 18.7% of all homes that have at least 50% equity (30.2% of the remaining 62% with a mortgage), we realize that 56.7% of all homes in this country have a minimum of 50% equity. That’s significantly better than the equity situation in 2008.
This time, housing supply is at a historic low. Demand is real and rightly motivated. Even if there were to be a drop in prices, homeowners have enough equity to be able to weather a dip in home values. This is nothing like 2008. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.