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Published: Thursday, 2/12/2009

Area delinquent mortgages rising

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Foreclosure activity has grabbed the headlines, but a new report shows that the number of metro Toledo people who have missed at least three months of mortgage payments is climbing, to more than one out of every 20 homeowners.

It's another sign of financially struggling homeowners, but the increasing numbers having difficulty paying their lenders may mean more foreclosures in months to come, experts say.

In December, 5.1 percent of local borrowers were 90 days or more late in mortgage payments, according to First American CoreLogic, a real estate data gathering firm. A year earlier, the rate for Lucas, Fulton, Ottawa, and Wood counties was 4.8 percent.

"The overall economic picture has deteriorated, and when that happens people lose their jobs and get behind on mortgage payments," said Martin Sutter, president of Genoa Banking Co. He said his bank has not had customers with late mortgage payments.

That likely will result in lenders tightening their lending practices even further, he added.

Bill Farnsel, executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services Inc., which helps homeowners who get behind in their mortgage payments, said his agency has been flooded with calls of people delinquent on their home loans.

"It's still higher than anything we've ever experienced," he said.

The problem, he said, stems from unemployment, when people lose their income to pay off their home loan. Metro Toledo's jobless rate jumped to 9.8 percent in December, with 33,000 people out of work, up from 6.5 percent a year earlier, government records show.

CoreLogic tracks all active mortgages by gathering data from courthouse filings, county recorder figures, lenders, tax assessments, appraisals, and other public records.

Ron Patton, senior vice president of lending at Directions Credit Union, said the proportion of late mortgage payments increased last year.

"As of the beginning of the year, our delinquency rate has been rather steady. It hasn't increased a lot," he said. "But late last year it was growing, and going forward, I don't know what to expect."

Mr. Farnsel said his agency can help people with late payments, but many are unable to continue making timely payments because they have lost their jobs.

Comparable figures on delinquent mortgage payments nationwide for the third quarter last year show home loans that were 90 days or more late in payments were 2.2 percent nationally and 2.48 percent in Ohio, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Overall, 7.3 percent of mortgages nationally had late payments in the third quarter and 8.3 percent in Ohio, the trade group said. The rate excludes loans in the process of foreclosure.

CoreLogic said foreclosures in December in metro Toledo decreased to 2 percent. A year earlier the foreclosure rate was 2.2 percent. Nationally it was 1.7 percent.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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