Late-payment rate on mortgages falls in 4Q

LOS ANGELES — U.S. homeowners are doing a better job of keeping up with mortgage payments, a trend that has reduced the rate of late payment on home loans to the lowest level in more than five years.

The percentage of mortgage holders at least two months behind on their payments fell in the October-December quarter to 3.85 percent from 5.08 percent a year earlier, credit reporting agency TransUnion said Wednesday.

The last time the mortgage delinquency rate was lower was 3.61 percent in the second quarter of 2008. The firm’s data go back to the second quarter of 2007.

The latest rate also declined from 4.09 percent in the third quarter, the firm said.

Struggling homeowners have seen their finances shorn up by rising home values, an improving job market and efforts to restructure home loans so they’re more affordable. That has enabled them to make timely payments.

Another key driver in the improved late-payment rate: Many of the risky home loans made before 2008 that went unpaid are no longer a factor, since the homes have been sold or foreclosed upon. Loans issued since then, after banks tightened lending standards, are less likely to go unpaid.

“We are on the downward slope of the mortgage delinquency curve, so we expect to continue seeing delinquency rates that have not been seen for several years,” said Steve Chaouki, head of financial services for TransUnion.

The rate of late payments on home loans has been steadily declining over the past two years. At the same time, U.S. home sales and prices have been rebounding over the past two years, while foreclosures have been declining.

Moderate but stable job gains, still-low mortgage interest rates, and tight supply of homes for sale have helped fuel the housing rebound. That’s also made it easier for homeowners to refinance, catch up on payments or sell their home, avoiding foreclosure.

Many borrowers also are making keeping up with their mortgage payments a priority over other financial obligations, encouraged by rising home values and lower unemployment, Chaouki said.

This is a reversal of a trend during the last recession and housing downturn, which left many homeowners owing more on their home than it was worth.

Even so, the mortgage delinquency rate is still about twice as high as it was before the housing bubble burst in 2007. That suggests that many homeowners still are struggling to make their payments. It also reflects that many home loans made during the housing boom remain unpaid but have yet to work their way through the foreclosure process.

TransUnion expects that mortgage delinquencies will continue to decline, falling to a rate of 3.7 percent by the end of March. The forecast assumes the U.S. economy will continue to strengthen and foreclosures will continue to thin out the backlog of older loans gone unpaid.

All told, all the states and the District of Columbia posted sharp annual declines in their mortgage late-payment rate for the fourth quarter, the firm said.

Arizona (38.6 percent), California (37.8 percent) and Nevada (34.7 percent) had the biggest annual declines. Only New York and New Jersey didn’t post a double-digit percentage drop in their mortgage delinquency rate.

Meanwhile, the number of new home loans made by lenders fell in the third quarter as interest rates spiked last summer.

The data lags by a quarter, so the latest TransUnion figures cover the July-September period. They show that new home loans originated during the quarter declined to 1.9 million from 2.3 million in the third quarter of 2012.

The share of new home loans made to borrowers with less-than-perfect credit grew to 6.61 percent from 5.55 percent a year earlier. That’s still well below the roughly 16.3 percent share of new mortgages that went to non-prime borrowers in the third quarter of 2007, just before the recession.

In the VantageScore credit rating scale, borrowers with a score lower than 700 on a scale of 501-990 are considered non-prime borrowers.

More in Herald Business Journal

Tulalips break ground on new Quil Ceda Creek Casino Hotel

A 150-room hotel was added to what is now a $140 million complex expected to open in spring 2019.

For modern women, 98-year-old rejection letters still sting

In a stark new video, female Boeing engineers break the silence about past inopportunity.

Angel of the Winds pays $3.4M for Everett arena naming rights

The casino replaces Xfinity as the lead sponsor for the publicly owned downtown Everett events center.

Teddy, an English bulldog, models Zentek Clothing’s heat regulating dog jacket. (Ian Terry / The Herald)
Everett clothing company keeps your dog cool and stylish

Zentek uses space-age fabrics to moderate the temperature of pets and now humans.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Merger would make Providence part of health care behemoth

Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are said to be talking. Swedish would also be affected.

Bombardier promotes its C Series airliner as American made

It says more than half its all-new jet is made in US factories with final assembly near Montreal.

Everett engineers learn lessons from Mexico City catastrophe

Structural scientists went to help after the September earthquake there and studied the damage.

Airports want to nearly double passengers’ user fees

Delta says airports will rake in $3.6 billion in passenger facility charge taxes this year.

UPS delays mount as online shopping hobbles courier’s network

FedEx completed 97.1 percent of its ground deliveries on time in the same period.

Most Read