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Author(s): Davis, Morris A.
Publication Date: July 2010
7 pages; Inventory ID LLA100702; English
To place these percentages in context, in the 27 ⅟2 year period between 1979 and mid-2006, a cumulative total of 7.5 million foreclosure proceedings had been initiated at a rate of 275,000 per year. In the 3 ⅟2 year period between mid-2006 and year-end 2009, 6 million foreclosure proceedings had been initiated, at a rate of 1.7 million per year, a more than six-fold increase. The conditions for high foreclosure rates are in place for at least the next two years, suggesting that another 4 to 5 million owner-occupied homes will enter into foreclosure in 2010 and 2011.
What is a Foreclosure? A house is seized by a mortgage lender in a foreclosure proceeding after three steps have occurred. First, the homeowner fails to make contractually obligated mortgage payments, a condition commonly known as default. If homeowners fail to make one or two monthly payments, they are known as 30- and 60-days delinquent, respectively. In many of these cases, the homeowner “self-cures” by making the missed payment(s) in full and paying an additional (contractually pre-specified) penalty. A homeowner who misses three consecutive monthly payments is known as 90-days delinquent, and the probability increases that the house will end up in foreclosure (Tanta 2007).
In the second step, the lender initiates foreclosure proceedings. This process varies by state and can take between 6 and 18 months to complete. In the third and final step, the court system assigns the ownership of the house back to the mortgage lender. In some states, after a foreclosure occurs lenders may try to obtain a “deficiency judgment,” which implies that the foreclosed homeowner must compensate the lender in an amount equal to the difference between the value of the house after the foreclosure and the outstanding loan balance of the mortgage (Ghent and Kudlyak 2009).
What Factors Lead to Foreclosure? We learn about the root causes of foreclosure by first exploring how foreclosure rates vary across places and over time. Figure 2 shows a graph of 90-day delinquency rates by state in the second quarter of 2009, when the 90-day delinquent rate ranged from 1 percent to 6.5 percent. Two variables explain almost three-quarters of the cross-sectional variation in delinquency rates across states: (1) the statewide unemployment rate in August 2009; and (2) the percentage change in house prices over the three-year period from 2006:Q2 to 2009:Q2.
Table 1 shows the highest and lowest five states in terms of foreclosure rates in 2009:Q2. The states with the steepest declines in house prices and highest unemployment rates have the highest percentage of seriously delinquent borrowers. The two states with the most disparate outcomes are Nevada and North Dakota. In Nevada, house prices fell almost 50 percent; the unemployment rate was 13.2 percent in August 2009; and the 90-day delinquency rate on mortgages was 6.5 percent. In North Dakota, homes appreciated by almost 11 percent; the unemployment rate was a low 4.3 percent; and the 90-day delinquency rate on mortgages was only 1.0 percent.
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