Number of troubled mortgages on rise again

August 22, 2011: 11:39 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- In another hit to the beleaguered housing market, a report out Monday found that the number of delinquent mortgage borrowers -- those who have missed at least one payment -- rose during the second quarter.

The delinquency rate grew only slightly, up 0.12 percentage points to 8.44%, but that reverses the steady improvement of the past two years.

The increase, as reported by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), may not sound like much, but it could mean that the recovery in the housing market will take even longer than thought.

The MBA breaks down delinquencies by degree of severity, ranging from one payment past due to 60 days late, 90 days late and loans that are in the process of foreclosure proceedings, the final step before bank repossession.

One bright spot: The number of loans more than 90 days late declined. Those are the mortgages that are most likely to proceed all the way to repossession.

Still, the number of initial filings ticked higher.

Borrowers earlier in default are more likely to begin repayment again. Often the problems besetting them were temporary, such as an unexpected medical bill or a brief layoff from work.

"Delinquencies are mirroring what's taking place in the employment market," said Jay Brinkmann, the MBA's chief economist.

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There were other reasons for hope. There was a drop in the number of new foreclosures initiated, which means fewer borrowers are actually losing homes to bank repossessions. The nation is back to 2007 levels in that delinquency category.

Another is that the newest loans, those issued after 2007, are performing much better than earlier issues. Mortgages originated from 2005 through 2007 represent 30% of all mortgages, but account for 65% of defaults.

Once the problems with those mortgages work through, delinquency rates should start to drop off more significantly, as long as the economy starts to pick up and hiring gains strength. To top of page

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