From the Record:
As unemployed homeowners struggled to pay their mortgages, the percentage of New Jersey loans in foreclosure or at least a month behind on payments hit 14.5 percent in the third quarter, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday.
That means that almost one of every seven mortgages in the state was in trouble. The nationwide percentage of delinquent or foreclosed mortgages was a record 14.4 percent, up from 10 percent a year earlier.
The rise in unemployment is the main driver behind the rise in foreclosures, according to Jay Brinkmann, the mortgage bankers’ chief economists. Despite the apparent end to the recession, unemployment is running at the highest level in decades — 9.7 percent in New Jersey and 10.2 percent nationwide in October.
“Mortgages are paid with paychecks,” Brinkmann said. As the number of unemployed people jumped by about 5.5 million over the past year, two million mortgages fell into serious delinquency, he said.
And he said mortgage delinquency rates and foreclosures “will continue to worsen before they improve,” because hiring is not expected to pick up until the first or second quarter of 2010.
While subprime mortgages remain the most distressed sector of the market, the number of new delinquencies is growing faster among prime mortgages, which were taken out by qualified borrowers. Those prime borrowers tend to have more savings to support themselves during unemployment, Brinkmann said. But if they are out of work for a long period, eventually even they find it difficult to hang on to their homes.
New Jersey ranked fifth, right behind those states, in the percentage of loans in some stage of the foreclosure process during the third quarter. With home values down about 20 percent from their peak in the region, many homeowners who lost their jobs and fell behind on mortgage payments couldn’t just sell their houses without taking a loss.
“We’re seeing people with exploding mortgages that have just started to explode,” Salowe-Kaye said.