The rate of delinquent home loans is falling as high-risk mortgages from the housing boom are replaced by loans written to the strict standards enforced after the bust.
A Mortgage Bankers Assn. report Thursday said that after seasonal adjustments 7.58% of all residential mortgages were delinquent by at least one payment as of the fourth quarter of 2011.
That was down from 7.99% in the third quarter of 2011 and 8.25% in the fourth quarter of 2010. The trade group said its quarterly survey covers about 88% of home loans.
The association also said the percentage of loans on which foreclosure actions were started had fallen noticeably. But experts expect the rate to increase this year now that a 16-month state and federal investigation into faulty foreclosure paperwork has ended.
About 4.4% of all U.S. homes remained in foreclosure proceedings — a rate that Jay Brinkmann, an economist with the mortgage trade group, said was closer to the all-time high of 4.6% at the end of 2010 than to the longer-term average of 1.2%.
A separate study by credit tracker TransUnion this week showed that California, although still plagued with some of the worst housing woes in the United States, is clearing its huge backlog of troubled mortgages faster than the nation as a whole.
Arizona, Nevada and even New Jersey now have more mortgages that are seriously delinquent than California (TransUnion's standard for this is at least 60 days late or in foreclosure). TransUnion said it sampled 1 in 9 consumer credit files for the report.
California once ran neck and neck with Florida as the state with the most soured home loans. But Florida's rate of mortgages 60 days late or in foreclosure is now 14.2%, twice California's 7.1%, according to TransUnion.
Some hard-hit areas of California were still recording double-digit distress, according to an analysis TransUnion performed at the request of the Los Angeles Times.
The Riverside-San Bernardino County region, where serious delinquencies peaked at 17.9% in the fourth quarter of 2009, had 10.58% of loans in that category in the latest quarter. And TransUnion said the serious delinquency rate in the Stockton area was 10.09%, down from 16.69% two years earlier.
The Los Angeles-Orange County metro area had 6.86% of mortgages in serious trouble, down from 10.61% two years earlier. The San Francisco Bay Area was at 5.65%, down from 8% in the fourth quarter of 2009.