First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF), a leading global provider of title insurance, settlement services and risk solutions for real estate transactions, today released the First American Loan Application Defect Index for August 2018, which estimates the frequency of defects, fraudulence and misrepresentation in the information submitted in mortgage loan applications. The Defect Index reflects estimated mortgage loan defect rates over time, by geography and loan type. It is available as an interactive tool that can be tailored to showcase trends by category, including amortization type, lien position, loan purpose, property and transaction types, and can provide state- and market-specific comparisons of mortgage loan defect levels.
August 2018 Loan Application Defect Index
- The frequency of defects, fraudulence and misrepresentation in the information submitted in mortgage loan applications increased by 1.3 percent compared with the previous month.
- Compared to August 2017, the Defect Index decreased by 8.3 percent.
- The Defect Index is down 24.5 percent from the high point of risk in October 2013.
- The Defect Index for refinance transactions is the same as the previous month and is 1.4 percent lower than a year ago.
- The Defect Index for purchase transactions remained unchanged compared with the previous month and is down 13.2 percent compared with a year ago.
Chief Economist Analysis: Do Hurricanes Influence Mortgage Fraud Risk?
“Following seven straight months of declining defect risk, the Loan Application Defect Index for purchase transactions remained the same in August compared with the month before. Year over year, the Defect Index for purchase transactions decreased 13.2 percent as compared to August 2017,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American. “The Defect Index for refinance transactions is the same as the previous month and is 1.4 percent lower than a year ago.”
Rising Mortgage Fraud Risk Linked to Hurricanes
“While the overall risk of loan application defects, fraud, and misrepresentation have been on the decline, there are regions with the potential for higher defect risk due to the impact from Hurricane Florence,” said Fleming. “The expected damage to housing is staggering. Based on the National Hurricane Center storm surge estimate, we expect that more than $13 billion worth of homes, according to estimates of current market value, are likely to be flooded with at least a foot of water. Nearly 80 percent of these homes are expected to be in North Carolina. In total, approximately 50,000 residential housing units may be damaged.
“Unfortunately, on top of the damage to tens of thousands of homes, historical data indicates that hurricanes and loan application defect risk go hand-in-hand,” said Fleming. “Hurricanes, and especially the flooding associated with these natural disasters, create the potential and opportunity for significant misrepresentation of collateral condition.
“In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012, mortgage defect, fraud and misrepresentation risk, as measured by the Defect Index, increased 16.5 percent over four months in the New York metropolitan area,” said Fleming. “Fraud and misrepresentation risk remained elevated for an entire year after the hurricane, before returning to a level consistent with the national index in late 2013.
“Similarly, before Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit, mortgage risk in Texas and Florida was decreasing. However, following the storms, the trend reversed course in September 2017,” said Fleming. “Due to flooding in Houston, the Defect Index experienced an 11.2 percent increase in mortgage defect, fraud and misrepresentation risk over 3 months.”
Fraud Risk in Carolinas Likely to Increase in the Months Ahead
“While the devastating impacts from Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas continue to be assessed, it should come as no surprise that in the wake of major natural disasters, the risk of mortgage loan application fraud increases,” said Fleming. “According to the Defect Index, defect risk levels in the Carolinas were already trending up in recent months, and one should be on the lookout for further increases in risk in the markets impacted.”
August 2018 State Highlights
- There are three states with a year-over-year increase in defect frequency: Hawaii (+6.5 percent), Maine (+4.2 percent), and California (+1.3 percent)
- The five states with the greatest year-over-year decrease in defect frequency are: South Carolina (-21.9 percent), Minnesota (-20.7 percent), Vermont (-19.2 percent), Arkansas (-17.9 percent), and North Dakota (-17.8 percent).
August 2018 Local Market Highlights
- Among the largest 50 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs), the five markets with the greatest year-over-year increase in defect frequency are: Virginia Beach, Va. (+14.1 percent), Los Angeles (+11.0 percent), Orlando, Fla. (+11.0 percent), San Diego (+6.3 percent), and Houston (+6.0 percent).
- Among the largest 50 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs), the five markets with the largest year-over-year decrease in defect frequency are: Raleigh, N.C. (-23.7 percent), Minneapolis (-23.5 percent), Birmingham, Ala. (-21.4 percent), St. Louis (-18.9 percent), and Boston (-17.6 percent).