Equifax: Mortgage Debt Write-Offs Bring Consumer Debt Down

Consumers in most major U.S. metropolitan areas continued to reduce their total debt in the first quarter of 2013, following a trend that according to Equifax shows certain housing market stabilization measures are taking hold.

The National Consumer Credit Trends Report finds overall consumer debt fell from $11.02 trillion in the first quarter of 2012 to $10.92 trillion in the first quarter of 2013.

Equifax attributes the decline to a combination of “mortgage debt write-offs as well as consumer efforts to pay down mortgage obligations.”

At the same time, other forms of consumer debt are increasing.

In 2012 total mortgage and home equity debt obligations fell 3.1% to $8.4 trillion and total non-mortgage debt owed by consumers rose 7.1% to $2.5 trillion.

Trey Loughran, president of Equifax Personal Solutions, argued that since lack of access to credit impedes growth and access to credit keeps the wheels of the economy moving, "It is encouraging to see credit demand and supply continuing to come into balance.”

Consumers in Las Vegas, Miami and Phoenix, three areas hit hard by the housing crisis, saw the biggest declines over the past year in total debt outstanding at 5.9%, 5.5% and 4.3%, respectively.

Also consumers in other cities, including Dallas, Houston, St. Louis and Pittsburgh, showed modest decreases in consumer debt, he said, suggesting a more disciplined approach to credit and overall positive changes in consumer behavior, as many more people “are paying down their debt faster and taking their access to credit more seriously."