Housing: are more and worse defaults to come?
The New York Times says possibly, thanks to Alt-A loans that had generous teaser rates. Those borrowers will take longer to get themselves in trouble, but without rising home prices, eventually they, too, will find themselves under water.
I'm a little more skeptical than the Times. Option arms and other exploding loans became popular in 2005 and 2006, thanks to rising home prices. But Alt-A buyers qualified for longer teaser periods than subprime borrowers--5 to 7 years instead of 2 to 3. That means that those defaults won't start coming until 2010 at the earliest. By that time, economic growth should be picking up, and (at the rate Ben Bernanke is going, anyway) inflation will have eased some of the pain of their loans, even in a weak housing market. Analysts generally expect housing declines to be three years from peak to trough, so we're riding out the worst of it right now--at least, if history is any guide.
Moreover, Alt-A buyers have more to lose, in terms of their credit rating, and are generally a little more firmly rooted in the American homeownership culture than those borrowing at subprime rates. I'd expect them to fight a lot harder to hold onto their homes, and their ratings, than the subprime borrowers--85% of whom, remember, are still paying their loans on time.