Relaxed underwriting standards in late 1994 and in 1995 have produced loans that are going into foreclosure sooner than loans originated in other years, according to a recent study.
The Mortgage Research Group looked at 20 million loans across the country in reaching this its finding, which has ominous implications for future default rates on the loans.
A pool of loans is usually considered seasoned - at the point when loans begin to default - after three years. But loans originated in 1995 are already beginning to show signs of seasoning, according to the study.
"I can think of no other explanation for the data . . . than the issue of relaxed underwriting guidelines," said Gordon Monson, an analyst at the Jersey City-based research group.
Of the loans originated in 1995, 0.012% went into foreclosure after seven months. Loans originated in 1992 did not reach that level until they were three years old, according to the research.
The 1995 loans reached a high 0.013% foreclosure rate after nine months, the study found.
In addition to relaxed underwriting standards, 1994 and early 1995 saw an increase in the origination of adjustable-rate loans - which have higher delinquency rates than fixed-rate loans, said David Lereah, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association. The rise in interest rates in 1994 added to the delinquency problem that year, Mr. Lereah said.
Lenders are noticing the trend, too.
Paul Colombe, senior vice president at Old Kent Mortgage Services, Grand Rapids, Mich., said he has also seen an uptick in delinquencies on loans orginated late in 1994 and in 1995.
"There is more of an effort to get loans through the system because they needed production," Mr. Colombe said of originators. "There was a lot of competition for product and lenders were willing to perhaps take other factors into consideration when extending credit, and those positions are coming back to haunt us."
A combination of factors contributed to the problem, Mr. Monsen said. They include:
*Higher loan-to-value originations, coupled with home equity lines of credit to bring the total loan to 100% or more of the property value.
*The increasing tendency of appraisers to overstate the property value.
William Rhind, assistant vice president at Continental Inc., Seattle, said he has seen higher foreclosure rates since 1995 than previously.
"I've heard about this from other people, and it concerns me," Mr. Rhind, the Seattle-based lender's collection and foreclosure manager Continental, said. "Whether 1994 and 1995 were riskier years, I'm not sure," he said, adding "I think it's a little soon to make that determination."
Mr. Lereah said the loans originated in 1992 and 1993 were mostly refinances, which tend to have low delinquency rates.
"Just the fact that they are refinanced improves the borrowers' financial situations," he said. The borrower has more equity in his home than purchase borrowers, the monthly payments and the interest rates are lower.
The study was based on consumer credit data and property equity information from TRW. TRW has information on 30 million properties and credit information on more than 35 million households.