The new faces of the foreclosure crisis

A housing counselor speaks on foreclosure prevention to distressed homeowners at a housing fair in Thornton, Colo.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: We've been talking about foreclosures now for, what, years. Since the housing market peaked in 2005, 2006 at least. And while the basic details of the transactions themselves haven't really changed -- buyers unable to make their payments -- who's getting foreclosed on has changed.

Marketplace's Adriene Hill reports that in some cases it's no longer the usual suspects.


ADRIENE HILL: Foreclosures have come in waves. The first...

SUSAN WACHTER: An exotic, toxic, mortgage crisis.

That's Susan Wachter from the Wharton School of business. The initial foreclosure wave was the subprime crash. The second, says Wachter, a wave with long-lasting ripples.

WACHTER: A job loss phase.

And third, another wave that continues swamping the housing market.

WACHTER: It's primarily a phase of homeowners who are underwater.

A quarter of U.S. homes are worth less than there mortgages, Wachter says. It's a cycle that's hard to break out of -- foreclosures push down home prices, push homeowners further underwater, push up foreclosures.

Jacob Brown, from Saint Paul, Minn., was one of those submerged homeowners. Brown left one job and took another that paid less. So he tried to sell his house.

JACOB BROWN: Stayed on the market for almost a year before I finally just gave up.

He got behind in mortgage payments.

BROWN: I kind of reached a point where I was well, do I pay the mortgage on this place that I'm not going to be able to save and not pay any of my other bills, or do I pay my other bills?

Brown paid his other bills. The homeowner with work and a 30-year-fixed rate loan isn't the only new face of the foreclosure crisis. RealtyTrac's list of cities with the highest year-over-year increase in foreclosure activity includes metro areas you don't associate with the housing bubble: Seattle, Chicago, Houston.

Ted Gayer is with the Brookings Institution. He says now we're seeing the causes of foreclosure -- the waves of unemployment and negative equity all jumbled up.

TED GAYER: In some sense, it's one big wave that is still going.

And he's not optimistic it'll clear anytime soon.

I'm Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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