The housing market is not going to bounce back because there’s a huge pipeline of severely delinquent and underwater mortgages out there that still haven’t been absorbed by the market.
Courtesy of the NY Fed, here’s concrete proof banks are sitting on huge numbers of bad loans rather than foreclosing and letting them hit the market. (Ignore the data for 2006: there were few foreclosures back then. Focus on the early 2007 to early 2009 trend.)
This first set of graphs shows the probability that once a borrower goes 60 days late, he then fails to make his next payment and goes 90 days late:
Note the percentage of supposedly “near-prime” Alt-A loans where a 60-day-late borrower cures has plunged from 25% to 5%. The percentage of delinquent loans that get repaid in full because of a refinancing (in yellow) has also dropped from low to virtually zero.
So we see once borrowers miss a couple payments they have no ability or no intention to get current.
You’d expect, with this trend, for banks to then be more aggressive about foreclosing on seriously delinquent mortgagers. Yet we see the opposite: The next set shows what banks do for loans than are 90+ days delinquent.
So banks have gone from foreclosing on about 45% of their severely delinquent Alt-A loans each month to 20%.
So if you own a house that’s underwater, in practice you can probably keep living there (or collecting rent payments) for a year or so without making payments to the bank. You have 3 months before the loan is bad enough for the bank to foreclose, around 3 more months before the bank starts the foreclosure process and who knows how much longer before the bank actually moves to take possession of your home.
On that last point, the next graph shows the declining percentage of Alt-A loans in the foreclosure process that resolve out of foreclosure (i.e., short sale or refinance) and the likewise declining percentage of these loans banks are taking possession of:
Finally we see soaring losses on first mortgages:
This would be much worse if you included second mortgages, and worse still if banks weren’t propping up the market by sitting on bad loans. Worse still, banks are sitting on bad loans in the weakest markets the longest.
Bottom line, U.S. banks are still not owning up to their bad mortgage debt. Our government is turning a blind eye hoping the problem will go away. It won’t. This policy was tried and failed in Japan, where the economy never really recovered.
In fact, the Japanese stock market lower now than it was 24 years ago in 1985: