As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Not Over In California

I think the general consensus on the economy from the grand poohbahs of the establishment is that we're contracting less slowly, that we're easing toward the bottom and will be able to improve as the year goes on. This optimism depends on no further "unforeseen" downturns in key economic sectors. But that just doesn't seem plausible.'s estimates show that over 20% of all homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, as prices continue to decline. Considering that 24,000 homes and apartments are vacant in Sacramento, for example, up 40% year over year, the glut of supply suggests that those prices have further to fall. And thus we will not see much of a rebound in equity in the short term. Keep in mind that many of these homeowners who are underwater will experience recasts to their mortgage rates in the coming year, further straining their ability to make payments.

Now we have compelling evidence that a second foreclousre wave is starting to rumble through California once again, which could trigger the very same spiral that brought the nation's economy to its knees last year.

Here’s another sign that California’s foreclosures could jump in 2009: Delinquencies on dues owed to homeowner associations have risen sharply.

The homeowner association delinquency rate can serve as a leading indicator of sorts because homeowners usually stop paying dues before they stop paying their mortgage. The 90-day delinquency rate on dues for the 260 homeowner associations in California managed by Merit Property Management jumped to 5.3% in March from 2.8% last June. Delinquencies first spiked to 2.6% in December 2007 from 0.8% in March 2007.

The Journal looked at how banks were beginning to ramp up foreclosures after holding off for several months. Pre-foreclosure notices in California spiked in March after a state law had suppressed foreclosures at the beginning of the year.

Pre-foreclosure notices are where this begins, and those notices rose by 80% in the first quarter of 2009 from the previous quarter. As the article notes, the moratorium on foreclosures has been lifted, which will put more pressure on homeowners. We all understand that bad loans caused this crisis in the first place, right? Well, a lot of bad loans are still out there. At particular risk are those mortgages purchased at the height of the bubble in 2005 and 2006. Loans made in 2006 have an 8.5% default rate statewide. These are the worst liar loans, NINJA loans, many of them due to recast to higher interest rates. And this includes jumbo loans.

The number of U.S. homes valued at more than $729,750, the jumbo-loan limit in the most affluent areas, entering the foreclosure process jumped 127 percent during the first 10 weeks of this year from the same period of 2008, data compiled by RealtyTrac Inc. of Irvine, Calif., show. The rate rose 72 percent for homes valued at less than $417,000 and 78 percent for all homes, RealtyTrac said.

If you think this is over, particularly in California, duck.

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