More people were late with their home-loan payments in the last three months of 2011, the second quarter in a row that defaults increased.
Credit data giant TransUnion said serious mortgage delinquencies, loans on which borrowers were at least 60 days behind on payments, rose to 6.01% in the fourth quarter from 5.88% in the previous quarter.
The increases in those two quarters followed nearly two years of decline.
"To see that, quarter over quarter, fewer homeowners were able to make their mortgage payments is not welcome news," said Tim Martin, group vice president of U.S. housing in TransUnion's financial services business unit.
Martin said seasonal factors were partly responsible for the increase “perhaps explained by borrowers balancing holiday spending versus debt payments.” In addition, falling housing prices exacerbated negative equity, where homeowners owe more than their houses are worth, while high unemployment and reduced income “can affect borrowers’ ability and willingness to pay their mortgages,” he said.