Housing and Job Numbers Suggest a Turnaround

AMA2-3-14Amid the gloomy news about a slow and fitful economic recovery, some corners are clearly being turned. Those two major indicators of economic health, housing and employment, go hand in hand to suggest a more stable future. Case in point: a drop in mortgage delinquency and foreclosure rates to levels not seen since before the great crash of 2008.

When the housing market underwent that catastrophic collapse, millions of mortgages, most of them involving subprime loans to largely unqualified buyers, went delinquent or completely into default. Although homeowners struggled to cope with suddenly ballooning mortgage payments and other problems, many fell into foreclosure. Most were processed legitimately, but many were not, which created the “robosigning” scandal that launched investigations into fraudulent practices on the part of the nation’s big banks.

The fate of these foreclosures and delinquencies took many paths. Some became zombie properties, where owners simply walked away. Others were vampires, stuck in the foreclosure pipeline taking up space and giving back nothing on a lender’s balance sheet. Foreclosure processing slowed to a crawl in virtually all states, especially judicial ones that require a court order to seal a foreclosure proceeding.

Another side to that picture was the plight of the struggling homeowner, who was having trouble making mortgage payments or falling into delinquency. With new legislation under the Dodd Frank Act that aimed to call lenders to account for fraudulent practices, these underwater homeowners have been able to get help with mortgage payments in the form of refinancing and credit consoling to keep them from falling completely into foreclosure.

But even as housing began to improve slowly in the years after the collapse, the delinquent mortgage and foreclosure issue has dogged predictions of a complete recovery. Homeowners were still struggling, affected by other economic indicators too, including the employment picture and the state of the loan industry. And as employment has improved, with a better job outslook and improved wages in some fields, so have the abilities of many of these homeowners to hang onto their houses or get control of their mortgage problems.

According to a new report by HousingWire, year-end figures from 2013 showed that the delinquent mortgage picture continued to improve for the fourth straight year. That means a drop in mortgage defaults, a decline in the existing foreclosure inventory, and numbers of new foreclosures not seen since before the crisis hit.

Foreclosure statistics aren’t the only indication that the housing recovery may have hit a turning point. Overall home sales were also at their highest point since 2007. Even with higher interest rates looming and tighter loan standards created by the Qualified Mortgage Rule, the new housing picture, backed up by better employment numbers, seems to suggest that, as Jason Hartman says, now is still a good time to start building wealth through investing in an economy that’s looking to the past for a path to the future.  (Top image: Flickr/gorfor)

The American Monetary Association is the source for financial and monetary policy news you can use. Read more from our archives:

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The American Monetary Association Team

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