Good News for Foreclosures??

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A smaller percentage of mortgages were delinquent and the rate of those entering the foreclosure process slowed in the fourth quarter of 2009, possible signs that the foreclosure crisis that has gripped many of the nation’s housing markets is finally starting to ease, a trade group has reported.

“We are likely seeing the beginning of the end of the unprecedented wave of mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures that started with the subprime defaults in early 2007,” said Jay Brinkmann, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association, in a written statement.

The delinquency rate for mortgages on one- to four-unit residential properties was a seasonally adjusted 9.47% of all mortgages outstanding in the fourth quarter, down from 9.64% in the third quarter and up from 7.88% in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the MBA’s quarterly delinquency survey.

Delinquencies include mortgages that are at least one payment or more past due but not yet in foreclosure.

Meanwhile, 1.2% of outstanding mortgages entered the foreclosure process in the fourth quarter, down from 1.42% in the third quarter and up from 1.08% in the fourth quarter of 2008. The percentage of mortgages at some point in the foreclosure process at the end of the fourth quarter was 4.58%, up from 4.47% in the third quarter and 3.3% in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The MBA survey covers about 44.4 million loans on one- to four-unit residential properties, or about 85% of all first-lien residential mortgage loans that are outstanding in the country. No doubt, the foreclosure nightmare isn’t over yet.

The percentages of loans 90 days or more past due and loans in foreclosure process set record highs in the fourth quarter, according to the report. Many of those loans more than 90 days past due are in loan modification programs, and some of them have been seriously delinquent for months waiting for modifications to get finalized.

But the good news is there are fewer problem loans actually entering delinquency—likely a result of fewer layoffs, Brinkmann said. “We normally see a large spike in short-term mortgage delinquencies at the end of the year due to heating bills, Christmas expenditures and other seasonal factors. Not only did we not see that spike but the 30-day delinquencies actually fell by 16 basis points from 3.79% to 3.63%,” he said. He added that the non-seasonally adjusted 30-day delinquency rate has only dropped three times in the past between the third and fourth quarter—”and never by this magnitude.”

Depending on the fate of seriously delinquent mortgages—whether they are cured with modifications or ultimately enter foreclosure—the percentage of mortgages somewhere in the foreclosure process could start to see a gradual decline in the second half of the year, he said during a conference call with reporters.

If normal seasonal patterns hold, there could be a bigger drop in the 30-day delinquency rate in the first quarter of 2010, Brinkmann said. That would be a positive sign for the months and years ahead. “The continued and sizable drop in the 30-day delinquency rate is a concrete sign that the end may be in sight,” he said. “With fewer new loans going bad, the pool of seriously delinquent loans and foreclosures will eventually begin to shrink once the rate at which these problems are resolved exceeds the rate at which new problems come in. “It also gives us growing confidence that the size of the problem now is about as bad as it will get,” he said.

According to the MBA data, Florida was the most problematic state, in terms of delinquencies. Twenty-six percent of Florida mortgages were one payment or more past due at the end of the year, and 20.4% of mortgages in the state were 90 days or more past due or already in the foreclosure process.

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FHA To Raise Some Premiums This Spring

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The Federal Housing Administration won’t raise the 3.5 percent minimum downpayment requirement for mortgages it guarantees as long as borrowers have FICO scores of 580 or better.

Beginning early this summer, however, borrowers with credit scores below 580 will be required to make downpayments of at least 10 percent in order to participate in FHA’s mortgage insurance program.

This spring, the Obama administration also plans to raise the upfront mortgage insurance premiums paid by all FHA borrowers to 2.25 percent, up from 1.75 percent now.

Possible Home Loan Modification Problems

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Improving Your Credit Score Takes Time and Some Work

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Here are some tips to help improve your credit score. 

1. Review your current credit report for accuracy. Everyone is entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Get a copy of your credit report and look at it for accuracy. First, make sure that the information in your file is about you and only you, not someone who has a similar name or a similar Social Security number. It is very common for your credit reports to have mistakes or incorrect information. At a minimum, make sure that the information you are being evaluated on is current and correct.

2. Repair credit report mistakes. If you find something on your credit report that is incorrect or missing, you should dispute the mistake by contacting the credit bureaus directly. All credit bureaus have their dispute procedures on their website. They are also required by law to investigate any disputed items and these investigations will usually be done within 30 days of your request.

3. Pay your bills on time. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Payment history accounts for roughly 35% of your credit score. Paying bills on time is the most important thing to do. If you’re struggling to catch up, contact your creditors to work out a payment schedule.

4. Increase the length of your credit history. This accounts for about 15% of your score. Don’t cancel your old card or get a lot of new ones in a short time span because this can hurt your score.

5. Keep credit card balances low. It’s a good idea to keep the balances below 25% of your available credit. Even if you pay off your credit cards every month, a high average balance will impact your score. This accounts for about 30% of your credit score.

6. Keep new credit requests to a minimum. This accounts for 10% of your score. Every time a lender runs your credit, an inquiry is recorded. If you are trying to get a loan, don’t apply for new credit cards first.

7. Be aware that paying off a collection account will not remove it from your credit report. It will stay on your report for seven years.

8. Pay off debt rather than moving it around. The most effective way to improve your credit score in this area is by paying down your revolving credit. In fact, owing the same amount but having fewer open accounts may lower your score.

9. Beware credit-repair scams. By all means, don’t pay someone to wipe away the negative items in your file. If they don’t follow through, the damaging items will reappear in two or three months.

You may also consider talking to your lender also for other options when your credit score is not were you would like it to be.

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