Foreclosure crisis ebbing more slowly in Baltimore area than most regions
The Baltimore region is middle of the pack among large metro areas for its percentage of mortgages that are seriously delinquent -- 90 days or more behind. But our area saw a smaller improvement from the beginning of 2010 to the beginning of this year than most places.
Among the 100 largest metro areas, the serious delinquency rate dropped faster in 77 other regions than in the Baltimore area, according to figures from Foreclosure-Response.org, which analyzed LPS Applied Analytics data.
Our region is among a half-dozen with the smallest declines -- a tenth of a percentage point. The Baltimore area's rate dropped to 8.4 percent in March from 8.5 percent in March 2010. Five regions showed no change. Twelve had increasing rates of serious delinquency.
The result is that the Baltimore area went from having the 44th lowest delinquency rate among the 100 largest regions to having the 54th lowest.
The metro areas with the biggest decreases in serious delinquency were all in worse shape than the Baltimore region and still are. Riverside, Calif., for instance, saw its rate fall to 14.6 percent from 18.7 percent.
But Grand Rapids, Mich., tied for the ninth largest drop, started off with the same rate as Baltimore's and ended up at 6.6 percent in March, a drop of nearly 2 percentage points.
Serious delinquency includes loans wending their way through foreclosure but not yet auctioned off.
It's not always clear why an area's rate is dropping. It could be more homeowners getting out of immediate trouble -- landing a job after months of unemployment, say, or negotiating lower monthly payments. But the seriously delinquent group can also shrink as homes are taken back by lenders. (Real estate data firm CoreLogic noted this type of maybe-or-maybe-not improvement in a recent report about negative equity.)
Why an area's rate isn't dropping, though, is usually more clear-cut. The employment situation has a lot to do with it.
Not much has changed here on that count. About 7,800 more people in the Baltimore metro area were employed in March than a year earlier, an increase of about half a percent, according to federal estimates.
That's unfortunately a drop in the bucket: about 73,000 more Marylanders were working three years ago. The gap between where we are now and where we would be if employment levels were equal to pre-recession days is huge nationwide.