Home Finance Write-offs Fall to Five-Year Low

Equifax recently released its March National Consumer Credit Trends Report, which showed that there were $43.1 billion in home finance balances written off during the first quarter of 2013, down 23% year over year from $55.4 billion in Q1 2012. Last quarter’s figure is at a five-year low.

Write-offs (or severe derogatories) include loans that completed the foreclosure process and transitioned to real estate owned (REO) by banks, entered bankruptcy or were otherwise charged off by the lender.

From March 2012 to March 2013, home equity revolving fell more than 29% from $13.6 billion to $9.7 billion, according to Equifax. Of those considered delinquent (90 days past due or in foreclosure), 73% are tied to lines of credit opened between 2005 and 2007. Total balances declined 9.3% over those 12 months from $569.1 billion to $516.4 billion, and total loans outstanding fell from more than 11.5 million to less than 10.9 million.

Home equity installment dropped almost 26%, from $6.6 billion to $4.9 billion during that same time period. Total balances fell almost 8% from 148.1 billion to $136.6 billion and balances in foreclosure decreased by more than 25% from $595 billion to $445 billion and total existing loans went from over 4.5 million to 4.2 million. First mortgages declined nearly 25% from $477 billion to $355 billion.

Amy Crews Cutts, Equifax’ chief economist, also reported that overall home finance balances fell from $8.64 trillion last March to $8.38 trillion last month. She attributed the decline to write-offs from foreclosures and consumers paying down balances when refinancing (also known as cash-in refinancing), shortening terms when they refinance their loans or make extra principle payments each month for faster amortization.

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