MReport August 2018

TheMReport — News and strategies for the evolving mortgage marketplace.

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TH E M R EP O RT | 45 SERVICING THE LATEST O R I G I NAT I O N S E R V I C I N G DATA G O V E R N M E N T S E C O N DA R Y M A R K E T The Changing Makeup of Consumer Debt Mortgages and credit cards are making up a decreasing percentage of consumer debt, while student-loan debt rises to fill the gaps. M ortgage debt makes up a noticeably smaller share of total consumer debt than it did a decade ago, according to the latest Equifax National Consumer Credit Trends Report covering data for March 2018. According to the Equifax report, mortgage debt now ac- counts for 71.2 percent of total consumer debt. That's down from 78.4 percent in 2008, which marked the previous peak. First mortgage write-offs—which Equifax defines as "loans ter- minated in severe derogatory status"—made up 1.99 basis points of outstanding balances in March 2018. That's the lowest level since early 2007, down from 2.56 basis points a year ago. Equifax also noted that home-equity loan balances were down 68.9 percent as of March 2018, and accounts were down 63.2 percent. Total aggregate Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) credit limits on outstanding lines fell from $935 bil- lion in March 2017 to $914 billion in March 2018. Both HELOC loan balances and accounts have been steadily declining since peaking in 2007. The report revealed the makeup of total debt has changed dramatically over the course of the past decade. Credit cards have decreased as a percentage of total nonmortgage debt since 2008, dropping from 29.0 percent to 21.4 percent. Auto loans and leases have remained more or less flat as a percent- age of total nonmortgage debt—32.8 percent in March 2018 vs. 32.1 percent in March 2008—but they have hit a new record for outstanding total at $1.24 trillion. Student-loan debt, however, has demonstrated the most dramatic shift over the past decade. Student loans now ac- count for 36.9 percent of total nonmortgage debt, up from 21.8 percent in 2008. Outstanding student-loan debt now totals $1.4 trillion. "Student-loan debt is not a bad thing when students actual- ly receive a degree," said Amy Crews Cutts, Chief Economist, Equifax. "However, starting college and not finishing can leave a consumer's finances in distress, with generally nothing to show for it. Importantly, the $1.4 trillion in student loans reported to Equifax represents only loans still considered active—the Department of Education guarantees about $154 billion in defaulted loans on which it is still trying to collect that are no longer reported to credit bureaus." Breaking Down Consumer Debt-Collection Complaints Mortgage complaints account for 10 percent of complaints reported to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection in the most recent reporting period. T he Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP), formerly the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, released a new Complaint Snapshot that explores consumer complaints regarding modern debt-collection practices. The bureau has received approximately 400,500 debt-col- lection complaints since July 2011, amounting to 27 percent of the to- tal complaints the bureau received during that time period. The most complained-about category in March 2018 was "credit or consumer reporting," accounting for 37 percent of the 30,300 complaints received dur- ing that month. Debt collection came in second, accounting for 27 percent of total complaints. Mortgage complaints came in third at around 10 percent of total complaints. Credit or consumer reporting, debt collection, and mortgage were the top three most com- plained-about consumer financial products and services, collectively representing approximately 74 percent of complaints submitted in March 2018, according to the BCFP. The BCFP registered a total of 8,265 debt-collection complaints in March 2018, up 14 percent month- over-month. The rolling 24-month average for debt-collection com- plaints was 7,236. BCFP mortgage complaints in March totaled 2,804, an 11 percent month-over-month increase. The rolling 24-month average for mortgage complaints was 3,444. States with the greatest com- plaint volume percentage increase from the first three months of 2017 to the first three months of 2018 were Mississippi (30 percent), Alaska (29 percent), and Louisiana (18 percent). The states showing the greatest decrease in complaint volume during those time periods were South Dakota (-53 percent), North Dakota (-47 percent), and Maine (-41 percent). During that window of time, Florida had the greatest complaint volume percentage increase of the five most populated states, com- ing in at 11 percent. Pennsylvania showcased the biggest decrease at -9 percent. When it comes to the types of debt-collection practices consum- ers complain about most, the BCFP reported that "attempts to collect a debt not owed" leads the pack at 39 percent. Seventeen percent of complaints involved issues about written notifica- tions of debt, or not receiving such. "Communication tactics" also accounted for 17 percent of complaints, followed by "took or threatened to take negative or legal action" at 11 percent, "false statements or representation" at 10 percent, and "threatened to con- tact someone or share information improperly" at 6 percent.

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