The housing market has seen a concerning rise in foreclosure activity over the past year, putting many homeowners at risk of losing their properties. This uptick can be attributed to several economic factors that have made it difficult for borrowers to keep up with their mortgage payments. As lenders grapple with the surge in delinquencies and default mortgage servicing, they must assist struggling borrowers while upholding financial responsibility. The solution lies in implementing targeted programs, embracing alternatives to foreclosure, and utilizing third-party services for compliance support and loan servicing for mortgage companies.
After over a decade of declining foreclosure activity following the 2008 financial crisis, the tide has started to turn. According to data from ATTOM Data Solutions, a leading property database, there were over 167,000 foreclosure filings in the first quarter of 2022 – a 39% increase from the previous year and a high not seen since 2013. This uptick encompasses default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions, signalling growing distress in the housing market. Areas like Chicago, New York, Houston, Miami, and Los Angeles have been hit the hardest.
Several key factors have contributed to the concerning rise in homeowners falling behind on mortgage payments and losing their homes through foreclosure filings and auctions. Understanding these drivers is paramount so lenders can take proactive measures to assist borrowers in staying current on their loans.
Factors Contributing to the Rise in Foreclosures
1. Economic Fluctuations:
The COVID-19 pandemic created major shocks for the economy over the past two years, with impacts that continue to ripple through the housing sector. High unemployment during lockdowns left many borrowers unable to pay their mortgages, forcing lenders to offer expanded forbearance programs. Now labour market volatility and rising interest rates are putting further pressure on homeowners’ ability to afford monthly payments.
2. Changing Mortgage Rates
As the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to curb inflation, mortgage rates are climbing in step. The average 30-year fixed rate mortgage topped 7% in late 2022 – more than double what it was during the pandemic-driven refinancing boom. This significantly increases costs for new homebuyers and consumers looking to refinance existing home loans. Higher monthly payments make it tougher to stay current on their mortgages.
3. Unforeseen Events
From flooding and hurricanes to illnesses and job losses, unforeseen events can devastate homeowners financially. If an emergency expense suddenly arises, borrowers can fall behind on their mortgages and face foreclosure. Lenders often lack visibility into these issues, emphasizing the need for clear borrower communication.
4. Economic Uncertainty
High inflation, recession concerns, geopolitical tensions, and market volatility have created an uncertain economic environment. This makes both lenders and borrowers wary about the future. For homeowners, high consumer prices and shrinking budgets raise worries about mortgage affordability down the line.
As mentioned, rapid inflation has pushed the cost of essentials like food, gas, and utilities dramatically higher over the past year. Combined with rising mortgage payments, these factors squeeze borrowers’ finances, making it harder to stay current on home loans. The foreclosure risk increases if incomes fail to keep up with climbing living expenses.
6. Job Market Instability
In summary, economic fluctuations, unforeseen events, and housing market changes have created a perfect storm over the past two years. This has pushed an increasing number of borrowers toward financial hardship and mortgage distress. However, lenders are not powerless in the face of this foreclosure surge. They can pursue prudent strategies to aid homeowners while protecting their own interests.