The 2017 hurricane season devastated individual lives, communities, and entire regions. As one would expect, dramatic increases in mortgage delinquencies accompanied these events. But the subsequent recoveries are a testament both to the resilience of the people living in these areas and to relief mechanisms put into place by the mortgage holders.

Now, nearly a year later, we wanted to see what the credit-risk transfer data (as reported by Fannie Mae CAS and Freddie Mac STACR) could tell us about how these borrowers’ mortgage payments are coming along.

The timing of the hurricanes’ impact on mortgage payments can be approximated by identifying when Current-to-30 days past due (DPD) roll rates began to spike. Barring other major macroeconomic events, we can reasonably assume that most of this increase is directly due to hurricane-related complications for the borrowers.

Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge

The effect of the hurricanes is clear—Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Houston all experienced delinquency spikes in September. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands then experienced a second wave of delinquencies in October due to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

But what has been happening to these loans since entering delinquency? Have they been getting further delinquent and eventually defaulting, or are they curing? We focus our attention on loans in Houston (specifically the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land Metropolitan Statistical Area) and Puerto Rico because of the large number of observable mortgages in those areas.

First, we look at Houston. Because the 30-DPD peak was in September, we track that bucket of loans. To help us understand the path 30-DPD might reasonably be expected to take, we compared the Houston delinquencies to 30-DPD loans in the 48 states other than Texas and Florida.

Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge
Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge

Of this group of loans in Houston that were 30 DPD in September, we see that while many go on to be 60+ DPD in October, over time this cohort is decreasing in size.

Recovery is slower than the non-hurricane-affected U.S. loans, but persistent. The biggest difference is that a significant number of 30-day delinquencies in the rest of the country loans continue to hover at 30 DPD (rather than curing or progressing to 60 DPD) while the Houston cohort is more evenly split between the growing number loans that cure and the shrinking number of loans progressing to 60+ DPD.

Puerto Rico (which experienced its 30 DPD peak in October) shows a similar trend:

Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge
Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge

To examine loans even more affected by the hurricanes, we can perform the same analysis on loans that reached 60 DPD status.

Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge

Here, Houston’s peak is in October while Puerto Rico’s is in November.

Houston vs. the non-hurricane-affected U.S.:

Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge
Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge

Puerto Rico vs. the non-hurricane-affected U.S.:

Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge
Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge

In both Houston and Puerto Rico, we see a relatively small 30-DPD cohort across all months and a growing Current cohort. This indicates many people paying their way to Current from 60+ DPD status. Compare this to the rest of the US where more people pay off just enough to become 30 DPD, but not enough to become Current.

The lack of defaults in post-hurricane Houston and Puerto Rico can be explained by several relief mechanisms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have in place. Chiefly, disaster forbearance gives borrowers some breathing room with regards to payment. The difference is even more striking among loans that were 90 days delinquent, where eventual default is not uncommon in the non-hurricane affected U.S. grouping:

Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge
Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge

And so, both 30-DPD and 60-DPD loans in Houston and Puerto Rico proceed to more serious levels of delinquency at a much lower rate than similarly delinquent loans in the rest of the U.S. To see if this is typical for areas affected by hurricanes of a similar scale, we looked at Fannie Mae loan-level performance data for the New Orleans MSA after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

As the following chart illustrates, current-to-30 DPD roll rates peaked in New Orleans in the month following the hurricane:

Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge

What happened to these loans?

Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge

Here we see a relatively speedy recovery, with large decreases in the number of 60+ DPD loans and a sharp increase in prepayments. Compare this to non-hurricane affected states over the same period, where the number of 60+ DPD loans held relatively constant, and the number of prepayments grew at a noticeably slower rate than in New Orleans.

Houston Strong - Analysis by Edge

The remarkable number of prepayments in New Orleans was largely due to flood insurance payouts, which effectively prepay delinquent loans. Government assistance lifted many others back to current. As of March, we do not see this behavior in Houston and Puerto Rico, where recovery is moving much more slowly. Flood insurance incidence rates are known to have been low in both areas, a likely suspect for this discrepancy.

While loans are clearly moving out of delinquency in these areas, it is at a much slower rate than the historical precedent of Hurricane Katrina. In the coming months we can expect securitized mortgages in Houston and Puerto Rico to continue to improve, but getting back to normal will likely take longer than what was observed in New Orleans following Katrina. Of course, the impending 2018 hurricane season may complicate this matter.

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Note: The analysis in this blog post was developed using RiskSpan’s Edge Platform. The RiskSpan Edge Platform is a module-based data management, modeling, and predictive analytics software platform for loans and fixed-income securities. Click here to learn more.