Some national housing reports lately have been cautiously positive. Prices have stabilized a bit in scattered real estate markets, a good example of that is Las Vegas. Sales have gone up here and there, spurred on by affordable mortgage money and of course record-low price levels. All this is still short of kicking off a full-blown recovery, but at least it's something to work with.
Despite that, TransUnion, one of the big three credit bureaus, now says that mortgage delinquencies of 60 or more days climbed to a new high of 6.89% in the fourth quarter of 2009, translating into a 12thquarterly increase in a row. A year earlier, in Q408, the same number stood at 4.58%, so the annual jump amounts to around 50%. A major leap up. Nevada continues to lead the pack in most delinquencies at 16.19%, most of it coming from Las Vegas, and Florida follows close behind at 14.93%. On the other side of the equation, North Dakota topped the list of fewest delinquencies at 1.84%. One might ask, "Where have they been?"
At this stage in the economic cycle it appears that unemployment is the most weighted factor in determining mortgage delinquency levels. The jobless rate in Las Vegas, for instance, is well into double digits, pushing many borrowers - whose income sources fell from two to one or in worst case scenario from one to none - into home loan payment difficulties. Mortgage providers are surprisingly dormant in working with them to find common ground in efforts to keep them in their houses, adding to their woes. On top of that, scores of them are upside down - the mortgage balance is more than the home's value - by a wide margin, effectively preventing them from doing a refinance with today's low rates.
Housing will struggle for the foreseeable future, the only conclusion that can be drawn from TransUnion's research. Some regions with a better than average job growth will emerge from the swoon sooner than others. Southern Nevada - including Summerlin, Canyon Gate, Spanish Trail, Mountains Edge, Henderson and Anthem - appears to belong to the tail end of that, since there is a lot of ground to be covered before unemployment numbers sink to where they should be. Besides, mortgage lenders are still licking their wounds from the thorough whipping they just absorbed, have tightened underwriting guidelines as a result and that is another obstacle to a transition into a meaningful growth pattern.