Mortgage late payments rose in the first quarter to an overall national rate of 8.32%, although the 90-plus day rate and the number of foreclosures started declined, according to new figures compiled by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).

Based on the MBA’s late payment rate that means roughly $790 billion of one- to four-family loans are in some form of arrears. (National Mortgage News (NMN) estimates that housing debt in the U.S. fell to $9.5 trillion at March 31, from $9.6 trillion at yearend.)

The trade group, in particular, singled out the value ravaged market of Florida, noting that the state continues to be a significant problem. “Twenty-four percent of all mortgages in the country that are in foreclosure are in Florida and 23% of the loans in Florida are anywhere from one payment past due to in foreclosure.”

MBA chief economist Jay Brinkmann, pointing to improvements in the 90-day and foreclosure rate, said, “Most of these numbers continue to point to a mortgage market on the mend. Short-term delinquencies remain at pre-recession levels.”

However, late payments on all prime loans rose to 5.5% at March 31 from 5.48% at yearend. Also, subprime delinquencies rose almost a full point to 24.01% from 23.09% at Dec. 31, MBA found. (The trade group reports total late payments and foreclosures as separate data points.)

Meanwhile, late payments on FHA loans fell to 12.03% at the end of 1Q from 12.27%. VA delinquencies, though, rose to 6.93% from 6.67%.

According to interviews conducted by NMN over the past few weeks, some servicers are declining to file notice-of-defaults on delinquent mortgagors until the nation’s largest servicers finally strike a settlement with the state attorneys general over the ‘Robo-signing’ scandal.

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