Miami sees high mortgage delinquency in Irma’s wake

by Andrew Morrell

While much of the physical damage of the 2017 hurricane season has been cleaned up or repaired in communities in and around the Gulf Coast, the finances of many homeowners are still reeling. According to CoreLogic’s latest report on mortgage delinquency rates throughout the United States, several communities in Florida and Texas saw more homeowners fall far behind on their mortgage payments or slip into foreclosure by April 2018. That stands in contrast to the national trend away from serious mortgage delinquency.

“Job growth, home-price appreciation, and full-doc underwriting have pushed delinquency and foreclosure rates to the lowest point in more than a decade,” Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic, said in the report. Around 4.2 percent of mortgages were considered delinquent by at least 30 days in April 2018, a 0.6 percent decrease from the same month last year and the lowest 30-day delinquency rate on record since March 2007.

However, Florida, Texas and Alaska were the only three states to record increases in the rate of loans considered “seriously delinquent,” or the number of borrowers more than 90 days behind on mortgage payments. In the case of the first two, CoreLogic suspects that this is the result of the particularly devastating hurricane season last year. Florida was the only state to record a year-over-year increase in its 30-day delinquency rate.

The Miami area in particular registered some of the nation’s highest rates of delinquency in April. According to CoreLogic’s data covering the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan statistical area, 8.5 percent of outstanding mortgages were delinquent by 30 days or more — 5.5 percent were considered seriously delinquent. Miami’s delinquency rate was more than twice the national average and nearly 2 percent above where it was in April 2017. Still, Florida logged only the third-highest delinquency rate of all 50 states, with Mississippi and Louisiana claiming the top spots.

Mortgage delinquency rates are used as a barometer for the health of the housing market and the overall economy. If delinquency rates rise nationwide, it could be an early warning sign that household finances are under serious strain. But it’s easy to pinpoint the cause behind a localized trend, like the growth in delinquency rates seen in Florida and Texas by April 2018. A separate report from CoreLogic found that both states had the highest number of homes in areas at high risk of storm surge damage in 2017. Indeed, the storm surge from Hurricane Harvey inundated the Houston area with up to 12 feet of flooding, according to the National Weather Service. In Florida, Irma’s storm surge was not as high, but significant rainfall and wind still lead to widespread structural damage.

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