Cure Rates On Prime Loans Drops Ominously

This is a pretty important bit of information from HousingWire.

A slower cure rate among delinquent loans erased improvements in the number of loans rolling into delinquency status among US residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), according to Fitch Ratings.

Cure rates decrease as fewer delinquent loans return to current payment status each months. The prime cure rate slipped from an average 45% during ‘00-’06 to 6.6% today. Alt-A cure rates dropped to 4.3% from an average 30.2% and subprime cure rates fell to 5.% from an average 19.4%.

“Recent stability of loans becoming delinquent do not take into account the drastic decrease in delinquency cure rates experienced in the prime sector since the peak of the housing market,” said managing director Roelof Slump in a corporate statement.

“Whereas prime had previously been distinct for its relatively high level of delinquency recoveries,” Slump added, “by this measure prime is no longer significantly outperforming other sectors.”

The article suggests that the decline in cure rates is related to the fact that so many borrowers are underwater. Obviously, that’s a factor but I think that there might be a couple of other reasons.

For one, Fannie and Freddie let their loan standards slip markedly in the time period mentioned in the Fitch study. While they more or less held the line on FICO scores, they continued to underwrite higher and higher LTV loans and their debt service requirements were stretched beyond reason, or at least beyond reason if you factored in anything other than a good economy.

The second factor is the economy. More to the point, I don’t think that the statistics are truly capturing the hit to income that a lot of homeowners are taking. The unemployment rate is the headline number but a toll is being taken on households as salary reductions and enforced furloughs spread through the economy. In many cases, homeowners were operating on too thin a margin for the hit they’re taking and can’t cure their delinquencies by tightening their belts any further. There just isn’t any fat left to cut in a lot of budgets.

Unless the trend in cure rates starts to move the other way, any improvement in overall delinquencies is not going make a meaningful difference. Quite the contrary, we might be looking at a multi-year problem with foreclosures.

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