CLEVELAND — Seriously delinquent mortgages and foreclosures remain a much bigger problem in Greater Cleveland than in the rest of the nation, as new numbers from Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington D.C. show that one in 10 local homeowners was 90 days’ past due or in foreclosure in the fourth quarter.
Cleveland’s rate of 9.5 percent is 40 percent higher than U.S. rate and the average for the top 25 metropolitan areas. Greater Cleveland is defined as the Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor region.
Overall, the U.S. delinquency rate dropped to the lowest level since 2008, declining about 4 percent from the third quarter and about 22 percent from a year ago.
“This is movement in the right direction,” Michael Fratantoni, vice president of research at MBA, said in a conference call.
The numbers in Cleveland, however, remained flat from the third quarter. This could stem in part from the jobs picture.
While the region’s unemployment rate of 6.7 percent is lower than the U.S. average of 7.8 percent, there is concern that the employment picture is skewed. Statewide, the labor force decreased by 8,000 in December, so the declining unemployment rate could reflect people who have dropped out of the work force and therefore don’t show up on state unemployment reports.
Cleveland also jumped up two spots among the 25 largest metropolitan areas, with the fifth highest level of homeowners who were 90 days’ past due or in foreclosure. Ranking higher were Miami, Tampa, Nassau/Suffolk, N.Y. and Chicago.
Cleveland’s rate of 90-day delinquency/in foreclosure was 9.5 percent. Miami’s was 20.7 percent. Chicago’s was 10.1 percent.
The percentage who were 90 days’ delinquent remained unchanged for Cleveland, at 3.7 percent. The percentage in foreclosure was 5.8 percent, down slightly from 6 percent in the third quarter.
Ohio, meanwhile, remains at No. 9 for the highest percentage of homes in foreclosure, at more than 4 percent. The rate is 12 percent in Florida and nearly 9 percent in New Jersey.
The Mortgage Bankers’ data covers 42 million first mortgages, or 88 percent of all such loans nationwide.
“We are seeing large improvements in mortgage performance nationally and in almost every state,” Jay Brinkmann, MBA’s chief economist and senior vice president of research, said in a statement.
The 30-day delinquency rate and incidence of new foreclosures decreased to their lowest points since 2007. The total in foreclosure is at the lowest level since 2008.
Brinkmann noted that the foreclosure start rate dropped by the largest amount in the nearly 50-year history of the MBA survey and is half of what it was at the peak in 2009. The percentage of loans in foreclosure also enjoyed a historic drop.
This is only the second quarter that MBA has broken out numbers for Cleveland and the other larger metropolitan areas. So there are no long-term trends that can be backed up with numbers.
Many homeowners have been able to catch up financially in part because mortgage interest rates have remained near historic lows. This week’s averages were 3.6 percent for a 30-year loan and 2.8 percent for a 15-year loan, according to Freddie Mac.
Fratantoni said it’s encouraging that delinquencies normally jump up in the fourth quarter, because of the first winter heating bills of the season and the holidays, but they decreased this time around.
Not surprisingly, the lowest overall delinquency rate (at least 30 days’ past due) is lowest among borrowers with the best credit ratings and fixed-rate loans. That delinquency rate of 4 percent is nearly half the U.S. average of 7.5 percent.
However, the overall delinquency rate is worst, at 23 percent, among borrowers with adjustable-rate loans aimed at people with bad credit.
Brinkmann noted delinquency rates for FHA loans are higher than for prime loans, but said the rates show improvement if you look at FHA loans originated in 2010 or later, when lending standards started tightening.