If you’ve been following the news recently, you might have seen articles about an increase in foreclosures and bankruptcies. That could be making you feel uneasy, especially if you’re thinking about buying or selling a house.
But the truth is, even though the numbers are going up, the data shows the housing market isn’t headed for a crisis.
Foreclosure Activity Rising, but Less Than Headlines Suggest
In recent years, the number of foreclosures has been very low. That’s because, in 2020 and 2021, the forbearance program and other relief options were put in place to help many homeowners stay in their homes during that tough time.
When the moratorium ended, there was an expected rise in foreclosures. But just because they’re up, that doesn’t mean the housing market is in trouble.
To help you see how much things have changed since the housing crash in 2008, check out the graph below using research from ATTOM, a property data provider. It looks at properties with a foreclosure filing going all the way back to 2005 to show that there have been fewer foreclosures since the crash.
As you can see, foreclosure filings are inching back up to pre-pandemic numbers, but they’re still way lower than when the housing market crashed in 2008. And today, the tremendous amount of equity American homeowners have in their homes can help people sell and avoid foreclosure.
The Increase in Bankruptcies Isn’t Dramatic Either
As you can see below, the financial trouble many industries and small businesses felt during the pandemic didn’t cause a dramatic increase in bankruptcies. Still, the number of bankruptcies has gone up slightly since last year, nearly returning to 2021 levels. But that isn’t cause for alarm.
The numbers for 2021 and 2022 were lower than more typical years. That’s in part because the government provided trillions of dollars in aid to individuals and businesses during the pandemic. So, let’s instead focus on the bar for this year and compare it to the bar on the far left (2019). It shows the number of bankruptcies today is still nowhere near where it was before the pandemic. Both of these two factors are reasons why the housing market isn’t in danger of crashing.
Right now, it’s crucial to understand the data. Foreclosures and bankruptcies are rising, but these leading indicators aren’t signaling trouble that would cause another crash.
You might remember the housing crash in 2008, even if you didn’t own a home at the time. If you’re worried there’s going to be a repeat of what happened back then, there’s good news – the housing market now is different from 2008.
One important reason is there aren’t enough homes for sale. That means there’s an undersupply, not an oversupply like the last time. For the market to crash, there would have to be too many houses for sale, but the data doesn’t show that happening.
Housing supply comes from three main sources:
- Homeowners deciding to sell their houses
- Newly built homes
- Distressed properties (foreclosures or short sales)
Here’s a closer look at today’s housing inventory to understand why this isn’t like 2008.
Homeowners Deciding To Sell Their Houses
Although housing supply did grow compared to last year, it’s still low. The current months’ supply is below the norm. The graph below shows this more clearly. If you look at the latest data (shown in green), compared to 2008 (shown in red), there’s only about a third of that available inventory today.
So, what does this mean? There just aren’t enough homes available to make home values drop. To have a repeat of 2008, there’d need to be a lot more people selling their houses with very few buyers, and that’s not happening right now.
Newly Built Homes
People are also talking a lot about what’s going on with newly built houses these days, and that might make you wonder if homebuilders are overdoing it. The graph below shows the number of new houses built over the last 52 years:
The 14 years of underbuilding (shown in red) is a big part of the reason why inventory is so low today. Basically, builders haven’t been building enough homes for years now and that’s created a significant deficit in supply.
While the final blue bar on the graph shows that’s ramping up and is on pace to hit the long-term average again, it won’t suddenly create an oversupply. That’s because there’s too much of a gap to make up. Plus, builders are being intentional about not overbuilding homes like they did during the bubble.
Distressed Properties (Foreclosures and Short Sales)
The last place inventory can come from is distressed properties, including short sales and foreclosures. Back during the housing crisis, there was a flood of foreclosures due to lending standards that allowed many people to get a home loan they couldn’t truly afford.
Today, lending standards are much tighter, resulting in more qualified buyers and far fewer foreclosures. The graph below uses data from the Federal Reserve to show how things have changed since the housing crash:
This graph illustrates, as lending standards got tighter and buyers were more qualified, the number of foreclosures started to go down. And in 2020 and 2021, the combination of a moratorium on foreclosures and the forbearance program helped prevent a repeat of the wave of foreclosures we saw back around 2008.
The forbearance program was a game changer, giving homeowners options for things like loan deferrals and modifications they didn’t have before. And data on the success of that program shows four out of every five homeowners coming out of forbearance are either paid in full or have worked out a repayment plan to avoid foreclosure. These are a few of the biggest reasons there won’t be a wave of foreclosures coming to the market.
What This Means for You
Inventory levels aren’t anywhere near where they’d need to be for prices to drop significantly and the housing market to crash. According to Bankrate, that isn’t going to change anytime soon, especially considering buyer demand is still strong:
“This ongoing lack of inventory explains why many buyers still have little choice but to bid up prices. And it also indicates that the supply-and-demand equation simply won’t allow a price crash in the near future.”
The market doesn’t have enough available homes for a repeat of the 2008 housing crisis – and there’s nothing that suggests that will change anytime soon. That’s why housing inventory tells us there’s no crash on the horizon.
- With ongoing high inflation pushing up everyday costs, some people are worried that’ll create a flood of foreclosures. Here’s why that’s unlikely.
- Fewer people are seriously behind on mortgage payments right now. If foreclosures were going to rise a lot, more people would need to be late on their payments.
- Since most are paying on time, a wave isn’t coming. If you’re concerned about a flood of foreclosures, the data shows that’s not likely.
The rising cost of just about everything from groceries to gas right now is leading to speculation that more people won’t be able to afford their mortgage payments. And that’s creating concern that a lot of foreclosures are on the horizon. While it’s true that foreclosure filings have gone up a bit compared to last year, experts say a flood of foreclosures isn’t coming.
Take it from Bill McBride of Calculated Risk. McBride is an expert on the housing market, and after closely following the data and market environment leading up to the crash, he was able to see the foreclosures coming in 2008. With the same careful eye and analysis, he has a different take on what’s ahead in the current market:
“There will not be a foreclosure crisis this time.”
Let’s look at why another flood is so unlikely.
There Aren’t Many Homeowners Who Are Seriously Behind on Their Mortgage Payments
One of the main reasons there were so many foreclosures during the last housing crash was because relaxed lending standards made it easy for people to take out mortgages, even if they couldn’t show that they’d be able to pay them back. At that time, lenders weren’t being very strict when assessing applicant credit scores, income levels, employment status, and debt-to-income ratio.
But now, lending standards have tightened, leading to more qualified buyers who can afford to make their mortgage payments. And data from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae shows the number of homeowners who are seriously behind on their mortgage payments is declining (see graph below):
Molly Boese, Principal Economist at CoreLogic, explains just how few homeowners are struggling to make their mortgage payments:
“May’s overall mortgage delinquency rate matched the all-time low, and serious delinquencies followed suit. Furthermore, the rate of mortgages that were six months or more past due, a measure that ballooned in 2021, has receded to a level last observed in March 2020.”
Before there can be a significant rise in foreclosures, the number of people who can’t make their mortgage payments would need to rise. Since so many buyers are making their payments today, a wave of foreclosures isn’t likely.
If you’re worried about a potential flood of foreclosures, know there’s nothing in the data today to suggest that’ll happen. In fact, qualified buyers are making their mortgage payments at a very high rate.
If you’re a homeowner, odds are your equity has grown significantly over the last few years. Equity builds over time as home values grow and as you pay down your home loan. And, since home prices skyrocketed during the ‘unicorn’ years, you’ve likely gained more than you think.
According to the latest Equity Insights Report from CoreLogic, the average homeowner has more than $274,000 in equity right now. That much equity can help you achieve certain goals. In a recent article, Bankrate elaborates:
“While the pandemic created serious challenges, the silver lining for anyone who owned a home was the sizable equity gain. Understanding how home equity works, and how to leverage it, is important for any homeowner.”
Here are a few examples of how you can put your home equity to work for you.
1. Buy a Home That Fits Your Needs
If your current space no longer meets your needs, it might be time to think about moving to a bigger home. And if you’ve got too much space, downsizing to a smaller home could be just right. Either way, you can put your equity toward a down payment on a home that fits your changing lifestyle. A real estate agent can help you figure out how much equity you’ve got and how to use it when buying your next home.
2. Reinvest in Your Current Home
Renovations are a great option if you want to change your living space, but you aren’t yet ready to make a move. Home improvement projects give you the freedom to tailor your home to match your needs and personal style. But it’s important to consider the long-term benefits certain upgrades can bring to your home’s value. Lean on a real estate professional for the best advice on which improvement projects to prioritize in order to get the greatest return on your investment when you sell later on.
3. Pursue Personal Ambitions
Home equity can also serve as a catalyst for realizing your life-long dreams. That could mean investing in a new business venture, retirement, or funding an education. While you shouldn’t use your equity for unnecessary spending, using it responsibly for something meaningful and impactful can really make a difference in your life.
4. Understand Your Options to Avoid Foreclosure
Today the number of foreclosure filings remains below the norm, so there’s no need to fear a wave of foreclosed homes flooding the market. But unfortunately, there are still some homeowners who experience the foreclosure process each year. If you’re facing financial difficulties, having a clear understanding of your options and how your equity can help is crucial. Equity can act as a financial cushion that can be used in times of unexpected challenges or unforeseen circumstances that may disrupt your ability to make mortgage payments on time.
In an article, Freddie Mac explains it this way:
“If exiting your home is the best option for you, selling with equity may be a good option. When selling with equity, you are using the proceeds from selling your home at a higher price than the amount you owe on your mortgage to pay off your remaining mortgage debt.”
Your equity can be a game changer in reinvesting in your needs, pursuing your goals, and even helping you avoid foreclosure during difficult times. If you’re unsure how much equity you have in your home, connect with a local real estate professional so you can start planning your next move.
If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, you’ve probably come across headlines talking about the increase in foreclosures in today’s housing market. This may have left you with some uncertainty, especially if you’re considering buying a home. It’s important to understand the context of these reports to know the truth about what’s happening today.
According to a recent report from ATTOM, a property data provider, foreclosure filings are up 2% compared to the previous quarter and 8% since one year ago. While media headlines are drawing attention to this increase, reporting on just the number could actually generate worry for fear that prices could crash. The reality is, while increasing, the data shows a foreclosure crisis is not where the market is headed.
Let’s look at the latest information with context so we can see how this compares to previous years.
It Isn’t the Dramatic Increase Headlines Would Have You Believe
In recent years, the number of foreclosures has been down to record lows. That’s because, in 2020 and 2021, the forbearance program and other relief options for homeowners helped millions of homeowners stay in their homes, allowing them to get back on their feet during a very challenging period. And with home values rising at the same time, many homeowners who may have found themselves facing foreclosure under other circumstances were able to leverage their equity and sell their houses rather than face foreclosure. Moving forward, equity will continue to be a factor that can help keep people from going into foreclosure.
As the government’s moratorium came to an end, there was an expected rise in foreclosures. But just because foreclosures are up doesn’t mean the housing market is in trouble. As Clare Trapasso, Executive News Editor at Realtor.com, says:
“Many of these foreclosures would have occurred during the pandemic, but were put off due to federal, state, and local foreclosure moratoriums designed to keep people in their homes . . . Real estate experts have stressed that this isn’t a repeat of the Great Recession. It’s not that scores of homeowners suddenly can’t afford their mortgage payments. Rather, many lenders are now catching up. The foreclosures would have happened during the pandemic if moratoriums hadn’t halted the proceedings.”
In a recent article, Bankrate also explains:
“In the years after the housing crash, millions of foreclosures flooded the housing market, depressing prices. That’s not the case now. Most homeowners have a comfortable equity cushion in their homes. Lenders weren’t filing default notices during the height of the pandemic, pushing foreclosures to record lows in 2020. And while there has been a slight uptick in foreclosures since then, it’s nothing like it was.”
Basically, there’s not a sudden flood of foreclosures coming. Instead, some of the increase is due to the delayed activity explained above while more is from economic conditions.
To further paint the picture of just how different the situation is now compared to the housing crash, take a look at the graph below. It uses data on foreclosure filings for the first half of each year since 2008 to show foreclosure activity has been consistently lower since the crash.
While foreclosures are climbing, it’s clear foreclosure activity now is nothing like it was back then. Today, foreclosures are far below the record-high number that was reported when the housing market crashed.
In addition to all the factors mentioned above, that’s also largely because buyers today are more qualified and less likely to default on their loans.
Right now, putting the data into context is more important than ever. While the housing market is experiencing an expected rise in foreclosures, it’s nowhere near the crisis levels seen when the housing bubble burst, and that won’t lead to a crash in home prices.