Foreclosure starts fall to an 18-year low during August

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Foreclosure starts dropped to their lowest level in 18 years, and properties foreclosed on but not yet sold fell to a 14-year low in August, according to Black Knight.

There were 36,500 foreclosure starts in August, compared with 39,200 during July, marking a 7.7% drop, and 48,000 for August 2018, representing a decline of more than 23%. This was the fewest foreclosure starts in a single month since December 2000.

At 3.45%, the total delinquency rate for August nearly matched July's 3.46%. In June, there was a spike in the delinquency rate to 3.73%, but Black Knight attributed this to seasonal factors and the fact that the month's end was on Sunday, a day where payments typically aren't processed. The delinquency rate in August 2018 was 3.52%.

There were 253,000 properties in foreclosure presale inventory in August, the fewest since 2005. This was 5,000 properties less than July and 28,000 fewer compared with one year ago.

However, the number of properties where the owners are at least 30 days late with their mortgage payment but not yet in foreclosure rose by 6,000 over July and 4,000 over August 2018 to 1.81 million in August.

The slight decline in the foreclosure rate was a result of growth in the number of active mortgages, which offset the effect of the rise of properties late on their payments, Black Knight said.

Meanwhile, lower interest rates drove prepayment speeds to their highest level in three years. August had a 1.5% prepayment rate, compared with 1.43% in July. August's prepayment speeds also were 91 basis points higher than January's 0.59%, which was an 18-year low.

And a further increase in the prepayment speed is likely when Black Knight reports its data for September, based on closing timelines. The time frame from application to closing is somewhere between 30 and 45 days; recent data from Ellie Mae pegged the time for a refinance to close in August at 39 days.

August prepayment activity reflects what happened with interest rates in June and July. Mortgage interest rates hit a three-year low the week of Sept. 5, according to Freddie Mac, although they rose by 24 bps over the following two weeks. This means the peak in refi-driven prepayments is likely still to come this fall.

But while the number of borrowers with an incentive to refi remains high at 8.3 million as of Sept. 20, it was down from a record 11.7 million just two week prior, Black Knight previously reported.

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Foreclosures Mortgage defaults Delinquencies Distressed Mortgage rates forecast Refinance Black Knight