If you’ve seen recent headlines about foreclosures surging in the housing market, you’re certainly not alone. There’s no doubt, the stories in the media can be pretty confusing right now. They may even make you think twice about buying a home for fear that prices could crash. The reality is, the data shows a foreclosure crisis is not where the market is headed, and understanding what that really means is mission critical if you want to know the truth about what’s happening today. Here’s a deeper look.
According to the Year-End 2022 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report from ATTOM, foreclosure filings are up 115% from 2021, but down 34% from 2019. As media headlines grab onto this 115% increase, it’s more important than ever to put that percentage into context.
While the number of foreclosure filings did more than double last year, we need to remember why that happened and how it compares to more normal, pre-pandemic years in the market. Thanks to the forbearance program and other relief options for homeowners, foreclosure filings were down to record-low levels in 2020 and 2021, so any increase last year is — no surprise — a jump up. Rick Sharga, Executive VP of Market Intelligence at ATTOM, notes:
“Eighteen months after the end of the government’s foreclosure moratorium, and with less than five percent of the 8.4 million borrowers who entered the CARES Act forbearance program remaining, foreclosure activity remains significantly lower than it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems clear that government and mortgage industry efforts during the pandemic, coupled with a strong economy, have helped prevent millions of unnecessary foreclosures.”
Clearly, these options meant millions of homeowners could stay in their homes, allowing them to get back on their feet during a very challenging period. 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, and that trend continues today.
And remember, as the graph below shows, foreclosures today are far below the record-high 2.9 million that were reported in 2010 when the housing market crashed.
So, while foreclosures are rising, keeping perspective in mind is key. As Bill McBride, Founder and Author of Calculated Risk, noted just last week:
“The bottom line is there will be an increase in foreclosures over the next year (from record low levels), but there will not be a huge wave of distressed sales as happened following the housing bubble. The distressed sales during the housing bust led to cascading price declines, and that will not happen this time.”
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.
There’s no doubt today’s housing market is very different than the frenzied one from the past couple of years. In the second half of 2022, there was a dramatic shift in real estate, and it caused many people to make comparisons to the 2008 housing crisis. While there may be a few similarities, when looking at key variables now compared to the last housing cycle, there are significant differences.
In the latest Real Estate Forecast Summit, Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), drew the comparisons below between today’s housing market and the previous cycle:
Looking at the facts, it’s clear: today is very different than the housing market of 15 years ago.
There’s Opportunity in Real Estate Today
And in today’s market, with inventory rising and less competition from other buyers, there’s opportunity right now. According to David Stevens, former Assistant Secretary of Housing:
“So be advised…this may be the one and only window for the next few years to get into a buyer’s market. And remember…as the Federal Reserve data shows…home prices only go up and always recover from recessions no matter how mild or severe. Long term homeowners should view this market…right now…as a unique buying opportunity.”
Today’s housing market is nothing like the real estate market 15 years ago. If you’re a buyer right now, this may be the chance you’ve been waiting for.
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.
Experts agree there’s no chance of a large-scale foreclosure crisis like we saw back in 2008, and that’s good news for the housing market. As Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, says:
“. . . don’t expect a housing bust like the mid-2000s, as lending standards in this housing cycle have been much tighter and homeowners have historically high levels of home equity, so there likely won’t be a surge in foreclosures.”
Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) helps tell this story. It shows the overall percentage of homeowners at risk is decreasing significantly with time (see graph below):
But even though the volume of homeowners at risk is very low, there is still a small percentage of homeowners who may be coming face to face with foreclosure as a possibility today. If you’re facing difficulties yourself, it can help to understand your options. It starts with knowing what foreclosure is. Investopedia defines it like this:
“Typically, default is triggered when a borrower misses a specific number of monthly payments . . . Foreclosure is the legal process by which a lender attempts to recover the amount owed on a defaulted loan by taking ownership of and selling the mortgaged property.”
The good news is there are alternatives available to help you avoid going through the foreclosure process, including:
- Loan modification
- Deed-in-lieu of foreclosure
- Short sale
But before you go down any of those paths, it’s worth seeing if you have enough equity in your home to sell it and protect your investment.
You May Be Able To Use Your Equity To Sell Your House
Equity is the difference between what you owe on the home and its market value based on factors like price appreciation.
In today’s real estate market, many homeowners have far more equity in their homes than they realize due to the home price appreciation we’ve seen over the past few years. According to CoreLogic:
“The total average equity per borrower has now reached almost $300,000, the highest in the data series.”
So, what does that mean for you? If you’ve lived in your house for at least a few years or more, chances are your home’s value, and your equity, has risen dramatically. In addition, the mortgage payments you’ve made during that time chipped away at the balance of your loan. If your home’s current value is higher than what you still owe on your loan, you may be able to use that increase to your advantage.
Rick Sharga, Executive VP of Market Intelligence at ATTOM Data, explains how equity can help:
“Very few of the properties entering the foreclosure process have reverted to the lender at the end of the foreclosure. . . We believe that this may be an indication that borrowers are leveraging their equity and selling their homes rather than risking the loss of their equity in a foreclosure auction.”
Lean on Experts To Explore Your Options
To find out how much equity you have, work with a local real estate professional. They can give you an estimate of what your house could sell for based on recent sales of similar homes in your area. You may be able to sell your house to avoid foreclosure.
If you find out you have to pursue other options, your agent can help with that too. They’ll be able to connect you with other professionals in the industry, like housing counselors, who can look into your unique situation and offer advice on next steps if selling isn’t your best alternative.
If you’re a homeowner facing hardship, lean on a real estate professional to explore your options and see if you can sell your house to avoid foreclosure.
With all the headlines and talk in the media about the shift in the housing market, you might be thinking this is a housing bubble. It’s only natural for those thoughts to creep in that make you think it could be a repeat of what took place in 2008. But the good news is, there’s concrete data to show why this is nothing like the last time.
There’s Still a Shortage of Homes on the Market Today, Not a Surplus
For historical context, there were too many homes for sale during the housing crisis (many of which were short sales and foreclosures), and that caused prices to fall dramatically. Supply has increased since the start of this year, but there’s still a shortage of inventory available overall, primarily due to almost 15 years of underbuilding homes.
The graph below uses data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to show how the months’ supply of homes available now compares to the crash. Today, unsold inventory sits at just a 3.2-months’ supply at the current sales pace, which is significantly lower than the last time. There just isn’t enough inventory on the market for home prices to come crashing down like they did last time, even though some overheated markets may experience slight declines.
Mortgage Standards Were Much More Relaxed Back Then
During the lead-up to the housing crisis, it was much easier to get a home loan than it is today. Running up to 2006, banks were creating artificial demand by lowering lending standards and making it easy for just about anyone to qualify for a home loan or refinance their current home.
Back then, lending institutions took on much greater risk in both the person and the mortgage products offered. That led to mass defaults, foreclosures, and falling prices. Today, things are different, and purchasers face much higher standards from mortgage companies.
The graph below uses Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) to help tell this story. In that index, the higher the number, the easier it is to get a mortgage. The lower the number, the harder it is. In the latest report, the index fell by 5.4%, indicating standards are tightening.
This graph also shows just how different things are today compared to the spike in credit availability leading up to the crash. Tighter lending standards over the past 14 years have helped prevent a scenario that would lead to a wave of foreclosures like the last time.
The Foreclosure Volume Is Nothing Like It Was During the Crash
Another difference is the number of homeowners that were facing foreclosure after the housing bubble burst. Foreclosure activity has been lower since the crash, largely because buyers today are more qualified and less likely to default on their loans. The graph below uses data from ATTOM Data Solutions to help paint the picture of how different things are this time:
Not to mention, homeowners today 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. Today, many homeowners are equity rich. That equity comes, in large part, from the way home prices have appreciated over time. According to CoreLogic:
“The total average equity per borrower has now reached almost $300,000, the highest in the data series.”
Rick Sharga, Executive VP of Market Intelligence at ATTOM Data, explains the impact this has:
“Very few of the properties entering the foreclosure process have reverted to the lender at the end of the foreclosure. . . . We believe that this may be an indication that borrowers are leveraging their equity and selling their homes rather than risking the loss of their equity in a foreclosure auction.”
This goes to show homeowners are in a completely different position this time. For those facing challenges today, many have the option to use their equity to sell their house and avoid the foreclosure process.
If you’re concerned we’re making the same mistakes that led to the housing crash, the graphs above should help alleviate your fears. Concrete data and expert insights clearly show why this is nothing like the last time.
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.