Strategic defaults to continue throughout 2012

A FICO survey of bank risk professionals found that 46 percent expect the volume of strategic defaults in 2012 to surpass 2011 levels, as more than 25 percent of U.S. homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

Concerns about strategic defaults were also reflected in response to a question about the consumer payment hierarchy. When asked if the current generation of homeowners considers their mortgage to be their most important credit obligation, 49 percent of bankers said no and 29 percent said yes.

Although concerns remain regarding strategic defaults, other signs point to growing stability in the housing market. More respondents (26 percent) expected delinquencies on mortgages to decline in the coming months than at any previous time in the two years FICO has been conducting this survey. Furthermore, 53 percent of respondents said the housing market would improve by the end of 2012, compared with 24 percent who said the market would deteriorate.

More than half of survey respondents (56 percent) expected the supply of credit for residential mortgages to fall short of demand over the next six months. A similar majority (53 percent) expected the supply of credit for mortgage refinancing to fall short of demand, indicating that lenders remain cautious about the risks in the real estate market.