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State's mortgage woes forecast to rise

Delinquencies on loans will continue to climb through 2009,

August 25, 2009|E. Scott Reckard

Mortgage delinquencies will continue to rise and set records the rest of this year in California, according to projections to be released today by TransUnion, one of the three big U.S. credit-reporting companies.

The good news from TransUnion's number-crunching is that, even in the tarnished Golden State, the trend may finally reverse itself by the middle of next year.

Before that can happen, lenders must first work through scads of backed-up problem loans clogging their pipelines, F.J. Guarrera, vice president for banking at the Chicago data analyzer, said in an interview Monday.

So in the immediate future the percentage of California home loans that are delinquent at least 60 days or are in foreclosure is projected to skyrocket to more than 14% by year's end from 9.7% as of June 30, TransUnion said.

In the region including Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the delinquency rate also was expected to hit 14% at the end of the year, up from 10.7% as of June 30.

"We think that's about as bad as it's going to get," Guarrera said.

California's overall economic picture is worse than that of the country as a whole. The unemployment rate was 11.9% in July compared with the nation's 9.4%. What's more, the whipsaw of home prices from the housing boom and bust was exaggerated in California, leaving more borrowers than average "underwater," or owing more than their homes are worth.

It's no surprise, then, that the state's mortgage woes are far greater than the nation's. At the end of June, 5.8% of home loans nationally were late 60 days or more, a percentage TransUnion expects to rise to 6.9% by the end of this year.

The TransUnion data reinforce a report last week from the Mortgage Bankers Assn. on the new records being set for problem home loans. But the credit-reporting company had more specific regional numbers than the national trade group.

In particular, the situation and the outlook in the Inland Empire are "kind of staggering," Guarrera said.

As of June 30, 14.9% of residential mortgages in San Bernardino County were at least 60 days late. And in Riverside County, where boom-era home building reached a frenzied peak, 16.5% of home loans were at least 60 days past due.

By comparison, at the end of the first quarter of 2007, Riverside County's delinquency rate was 2.6% and San Bernardino County's, 2.3%.

The normal national rate for these delinquencies is 1.6% to 2%, Guarrera said.

Although California will struggle for the rest of the year, the outlook nationally is brightening a bit, he said. For example, Ohio, a Rust Belt state where foreclosures surged long before those in California, recorded a lower delinquency rate in the second quarter with 4.57% of loans in the problem category, down from 4.79% the previous quarter.

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scott.reckard@latimes.com

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