The delinquency rate for mortgage loans on one- to four-unit residential properties stood at 6.35% of all loans outstanding at the end of the first quarter of 2008 on a seasonally adjusted basis, up from 4.84% in the first quarter of 2007, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Thursday, based on its National Delinquency Survey.

The seasonally adjusted total delinquency rate is the highest recorded in the MBA survey since 1979.

The delinquency rate includes loans that are at least one payment past due but does not include loans in the process of foreclosure. The portion of loans in foreclosure was 2.47% at the end of the first quarter, up from 1.28% a year earlier. The portion of loans on which foreclosure actions were started during the quarter was 0.99% on a seasonally adjusted basis, up from 0.58% a year earlier, MBA's survey found.

The increase in the overall delinquency rate was driven by increases in the number of loans 60 and 90 or more days past due, primarily in California and Florida, MBA reports. The 30-day delinquency percentage is still below levels seen as recently as 2002.

However, the rate of foreclosure starts and the portion of loans in the process of foreclosure both were at the highest levels recorded since 1979.

"The magnitude of the national increases is clearly driven by certain loan types and certain states," Jay Brinkmann, MBA's vice president for research and economics, said in a news release. "For example, while subprime ARMs represent 6% of the loans outstanding, they represented 39% of the foreclosures started during the first quarter."

In contrast, prime ARMs represent 15% of the loans outstanding but 23% of the foreclosures started. Of approximately 516,000 foreclosures started during the first quarter, subprime ARM loans accounted for about 195,000 and prime ARM loans 117,000, but the increase in prime ARM foreclosures exceeded subprime ARM foreclosures by 29,000 and 20,000, respectively, over the previous quarter.

"The problems in California and Florida are extraordinary," Brinkmann commented. The quarterly rate of foreclosure starts on subprime ARM loans in California was 9.24% and 8.25% in Florida, driving up the national average foreclosure start rate. California saw approximately 109,000 foreclosure starts and Florida 77,000 during the March quarter.

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