The national mortgage delinquency rate (the rate of borrowers 60 or more days past due) declined for the first quarter ended March 31, coming in at 5.78%.

The improvement ends two consecutive quarters of increases, according to TransUnion's ongoing series of quarterly analyses of credit-active U.S. consumers and how they are managing mortgages, credit cards and auto loans.

Before Q3 2011, 60-day mortgage delinquencies rates had dropped for six consecutive quarters. This latest quarter brings the delinquency rate to its lowest point since Q1 2009.

All but eight states experienced decreases in their mortgage delinquency rates in the first quarter, compared with the previous quarter. On a more granular level, 73% of Metropolitan Statistical Areas saw improvement in their mortgage delinquency rates in the first quarter, up from the previous two periods when only 36% of the MSAs experienced improvement.

“To see that quarter over quarter, and year over year, more homeowners were able to make their mortgage payments is certainly welcome news,” says Tim Martin, group vice president of U.S. Housing in TransUnion’s financial services business unit.  “Before this, we saw two quarters of delinquency increases and while we are still about three-times above the pre-recession norm, this should mark the start of consistent improvement each quarter.”

Housing prices continue to fall and unemployment remains high, but many see the economic environment beginning to show modest improvement. Therefore, TransUnion’s forecast predicts mortgage delinquency rates to drift downward this year as more homeowners are able to repay their mortgage debt obligations.

“We have seen increased traction of refinance activity related to HARP 2.0, a program that makes it easier for homeowners with negative equity in their home to refinance,” says Martin. “Going forward, as these homeowners take advantage of the historic low mortgage interest rates, and perhaps lower their monthly payment in the process, it may have some positive impact on the overall delinquency rate starting later this year.”

TransUnion’s forecast is based on various economic assumptions, such as gross state product, consumer sentiment, unemployment rates, real personal income and real estate values. The forecast would change if there are unanticipated shocks to the economy affecting recovery in the housing market or if home prices fall more than expected.

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