The Mortgage Corner

The number of California homeowners entering the foreclosure process plunged to the lowest level in more than seven years last quarter, reports DataQuick. The unusually sharp drop in the number of mortgage default notices filed by lenders stems mainly from rising home values, a strengthening economy and government efforts to reduce foreclosures, says DQ.

No wonder, as the median price paid for a California home last quarter was $297,000, up 22.7 percent from a year ago, according to DataQuick. During first-quarter 2013 lenders recorded 18,567 Notices of Default (NODs) on California houses and condos. That was down 51.4 percent from 38,212 during the prior three months, and down 67.0 percent from 56,258 in first-quarter 2012.

image

Graph: Econoday

Most of the loans going into default are still from the 2005-2007 period, per DQ. The median origination quarter for defaulted loans is still third-quarter 2006. That has been the case for more than three years, indicating that weak underwriting standards peaked then. The most active creditors in the formal foreclosure process last quarter were Wells Fargo (5,546), JP Morgan Chase (3,863) and Bank of America (2,565).

And Calculated Risk’s Bill McBride has become very sanguine about real estate’s role in boosting economic growth. He maintains that new home sales will pick up due to unfilled demand, due to the big jump in household formation—to 1.3 million new households last year and the prediction this level will be maintained over the next decade. He sees the so-called existing-to-new home sales ratio trending back down to its historical average of 6 to 1 from its current heightened ratio, in this very interesting graph. It was the “flood’ of depressed sales from foreclosures that depressed new home sales because of the plunge in housing prices brought on by the foreclosures.

image

Graph: Econoday

According to the Census Bureau, there were 104 thousand new homes sold in Q1 2013, up about 19.5 percent from the 87 thousand sold in Q1 2012. That is a solid increase in sales, and this was the highest sales for Q1 since 2008, per Calculated Risk.

“Although there has been a large increase in the sales rate, sales are still near the lows for previous recessions” said McBride. “This suggests significant upside over the next few years.  Based on estimates of household formation and demographics, I expect sales to increase to 750 to 800 thousand over the next several years. Also housing is historically the best leading indicator for the economy, and this is one of the reasons I think The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”

Harlan Green © 2013

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HarlanGreen