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Oil Spill May Cause Further Problems for Troubled Florida Homeowners

The BP oil spill may intensify problems for homeowners in Florida who were already struggling to keep up on their[IMAGE]

mortgage payments, ""Fitch Ratings"":http://www.fitchratings.com/index_fitchratings.cfm recently reported. According to the ratings agency, these ""at-risk"" mortgage borrowers will have limited ability to face any additional economic challenges brought on by the spill.

A study completed by Fitch found that half of all securitized non-agency mortgage loans in the Sunshine State are 60 days or more delinquent. In fact, Florida currently accounts for 16 percent of all 60-plus day mortgage delinquencies.

According to Fitch, the 60-plus day delinquency rate in Florida has been heavily influenced by the severe home

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price declines that have impacted most areas of the state, along with continued high rates of unemployment. Fitch said Florida was among the hardest-hit states in terms of rising unemployment, with rates peaking at 12.3 percent in February 2010 before recovering to the current level of 11.2 percent.

Roelof Slump, managing director at Fitch, said Florida already ranks worst among all states in mortgage delinquencies across all product types. In addition, he said the state contains a disproportionate amount of non-prime loans, with 85 percent of loans being categorized as Alt-A or subprime. Fitch noted that such products have become associated with weaker performance in general.

On an aggregate basis, 81 percent of all loans in the state are ""underwater,"" and the average mark-to-market loan-to-value ratio of Florida loans is a whopping 138 percent, Fitch said.

According to Slump, nearly 40 percent of all Florida borrowers owe more than 150 percent of the value of their homes. And although half of all borrowers in the state are current on their mortgage payments, they still owe 120 percent of their home values, Fitch said.

Given the significant negative equity, ""further economic stress brought on by the Gulf oil spill and declines in the tourism and fishing industries would be likely to further increase default rates,"" Slump said.

About Author: Brittany Dunn

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