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Borrowers struggling on unprecedented scale

Realtors say they are listing more properties that are in or facing foreclosure as an unprecedented number of Bermudians fall behind on their mortgage payments.

One realtor said they’ve seen more people having trouble paying their mortgages “in the past two to three years than we have seen in our history of real estate”.

HSBC Bermuda last June was reporting nearly $100 million in residential mortgages were past due, while Capital G had $102.2 million in residential mortgages past due.

Meanwhile, Butterfield, as of last September said it had gross non-accrual loans of $125.1 million.

HSBC Bermuda said it expects the trend to potentially continue well into 2013, signalling that the Island may not have reached a bottom in the housing market.

The number of legal actions over mortgages filed by the three banks against homeowners has risen; about two dozen writs taken out over the past year mostly involved mortgages taken out in the late 2000s.

A realtor told us: “We feel this has been caused by a number of factors: job loss, medical issues, which are often a result of the stress that people are finding themselves in with the downturn in the economy, wage freezes or fewer work week hours, business closure, lack of rental returns, higher interest rates, people over extending themselves (100-percent financing), competition by the government with excess condo supply, more stringent financing requirements and dramatic drop in housing prices.”

Many in the industry and homeowners alike are pinning their hopes on the OBA Government to make policy changes that could prevent the economic and housing downturn from growing worse this year.

Another realtor said that, in fact: “We have noticed an increase of interest in purchasing properties, but of course the purchasers’ financing from the banks has been very conservative.”

An HSBC Bermuda spokesperson told

The Royal Gazette this week: “HSBC Bermuda continued to see a difficult mortgage landscape in the last two quarters of 2012.

“The financial challenges faced by some customers continues and we expect this trend in the mortgage environment to potentially continue well into 2013.

“We have and will continue to assist customers facing financial challenges and will continue to be available to help guide customers through financial challenges successfully. We encourage customers to contact us when faced with challenges, so we can understand their specific circumstances.

“We have specialists available who are willing to work with customers, to look at their financial budgeting and help them to understand the options that are available to them. Circumstances are assessed, and alternatives that will help the customer are considered.”

A Butterfield Bank spokesman said in a statement this week: “Commensurate with the ongoing economic difficulties in Bermuda, there has been an increase in the numbers of customers who are facing challenges servicing loans and mortgages. We encourage our customers who may be experiencing difficulty making payments to contact us so that we may work with them to come up with mutually agreeable repayment terms.”

Butterfield, in its last results report, said that with respect to loan performance, allowance for credit losses at the end of the third quarter of 2012 totalled $64 million, an increase of $8.5 million from year-end 2011.

It said the movement in the allowance is mainly the result of additional provisions of $11.3 million taken during the nine months ending September 30, 2012 net of $3.1 million in charge-offs.

As at 30 September 2012, the bank said it had gross non-accrual loans of $125.1 million representing 3.1 percent of total loans compared to $110.1 million, or 2.7 percent of total loans, at year-end 2011. Although non-performing loans increased by $15 million, the bank increased total reserves by $8.5 million resulting in a more conservative total reserve to non-accrual loan ratio of 51.2 percent, up from 50.4 percent at December 31, 2011.

Net non-accrual loans were $92.1 million, equivalent to 2.3 percent of total loans, after specific provisions for such loans of $32.9 million, reflecting an improved specific coverage ratio of 26.4 percent, up from 21.3 percent at December 31, 2011.

“We continue to closely monitor early warning stresses in our loan portfolio and work with customers who experience financial difficulty in the continuing recessionary environment in our largest jurisdictions.”

As of June 30, 2012, an HSBC Bermuda report stated that $183 million in loans were past due (up to 90 days), including $97 million in residential mortgages and $47 million in commercial mortgages.

HSBC Bermuda said some $380 million in its loans were considered impaired, including $114 million in residential loans and $255 million in commercial loans.

And Capital G stated in its report that as of June 2012, $146.6 million in loans were past due or impaired, including $102.2 million in residential loans and $31.1 million in commercial loans.

According to BMA figures, non-performing loans (NPL) — described as loans for which repayments are 31 days or more behind — increased to 8.3 percent of banks’ total loans in the first quarter of last year, up from 5.4 percent in the same period in 2011.

Struggle: Local lenders are seeing borrowers struggle to make mortgage repayments

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Published January 25, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 24, 2013 at 7:44 pm)

Borrowers struggling on unprecedented scale

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