By J.W. Elphinstone -- AP Real Estate Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The mortgage crisis is spreading and hitting new heights: Borrowers with good credit now make up the largest share of foreclosures as job losses and pay cuts exact their toll.
A record 12 percent of homeowners with a mortgage were behind on their payments in the first quarter, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday. And the trend is predicted to continue until the end of next year, about six months after unemployment is expected to peak.
The genesis of the recession — risky adjustable-rate loans made to borrowers with bad credit — remains a significant factor in foreclosures. Today, almost half of all subprime ARMs are past due or in foreclosure. In Florida, New Jersey and New York the number is above 55 percent.
When those borrowers started defaulting in droves in late 2006, it forced dozens of lenders out of business and sparked a credit crisis in the summer of 2007. Businesses nationwide couldn't get short-term loans to finance new orders or even cover their payrolls. Economic production began shrinking at the end of 2007 in what has become the longest recession in the United States since World War II.
The impact has now filtered out, consuming homeowners who until recently had a good track record of paying their bills on time. Nearly 6 percent of these prime borrowers with fixed-rate mortgages were past due or in foreclosure, nearly doubling in the last year.
"These (borrowers) are the best of the best out there," said real estate analyst Mike Larson with Weiss Research. "Clearly, borrowers far and wide are getting hit by this."
The worst of the trouble continues to be focused in California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida, which accounted for 46 percent of new foreclosures in the country and reported the worst delinquency and foreclosure rates on prime fixed-rate loans. The four have suffered massive job cuts in the housing industry. There were no signs of improvement.