Yesterday, I updated my Downey Financial (NYSE:DSL)
survey of defaults and trustee's sales for November 2007. It's based on
a sample of San Diego, San Joaquin, and Solano counties only. See the
footnote for more on how this data is collected. (1)
A "Default Notice" is the first step in the foreclosure process. It is a formal notice to a borrower that they are in default. Lenders typically send them after a couple months of missed payments.
Once the lender sends the default notice, the foreclosure clock starts ticking. In California, the borrower has 90 days from the Default Notice to become current on the mortgage. If not, the borrower receives a Sale Notice and shortly thereafter (unless the borrower pays up) the property is sold at auction/foreclosed.
Then the trustee's deed transfers title to whoever buys it at auction (usually the lender takes it back as Real Estate Owned). This is coded as a "TTEE Deed" in most of the California recorded document systems, and on the chart below.
So, on this chart, the blue portion indicates borrowers who are in arrears, and the red is borrowers whose foreclosure is imminent or has already happened.
Also, because Downey is an option-ARM lender, many of its borrowers are making artificially low, negatively-amortizing payments. This may be temporarily allowing people to avoid defaulting. I expect Downey's default numbers to worsen as borrowers hit loan interest resets and/or max out their negative amortization caps.
Here's a projection for the 4th quarter based on October and November.
(1) Not all counties make this data easily available online (especially in California). Los Angeles does not provide online access, and many of the counties that do have extremely cumbersome interfaces. My surveying method is to count all of the default notices and all of the notices of trustee's sale and trustee deeds during the time period. I do not make any adjustments for notices of rescission of default. I have found this data to be an excellent leading indicator, but no warranty is made as to its accuracy.
I am short Downey Financial.