LOS ANGELES — Homeowners are doing a better job of making timely mortgage payments, a trend that brought down the national late-payment rate in the second quarter to the lowest level in five years.
The percentage of mortgage holders at least two months behind on payments fell in the April-June quarter to 4.09 percent from 5.49 percent a year earlier, the credit reporting agency TransUnion said Tuesday.
The rate also declined from 4.56 percent in the first three months of the year.
The last time the mortgage delinquency rate was lower was the third quarter of 2008, when home prices were sliding and the US economy was in recession.
Five years later, US home sales and prices are rising, fueled by moderate but stable job gains, still-low mortgage interest rates, few homes for sale, and a slowdown in foreclosures.
Low mortgage rates have made it possible for more homeowners to refinance and lower their monthly payments. And rising home prices have helped homeowners who were ‘‘underwater’’ on their mortgage — owing more than the home was worth — to return to positive equity. That, in turn, has opened the door for those borrowers to qualify for refinancing.
‘‘So as prices come up, more and more of those people come off the cusp and are actually able to take advantage of those low rates,’’ said Tim Martin, TransUnion’s group vice president of US housing.
The rate of late payments on home loans has been steadily improving over the past four quarters. Even so, the delinquency rate is still above the 1 to 2 percent average historical range, an indication many homeowners still are struggling.
Mortgage delinquencies peaked at nearly 7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.
The late-payment rate in the April-June quarter improved in every state, with Arizona posting the biggest annual decline.
Florida had the highest mortgage delinquency rate in the nation at nearly 9.9 percent, even though it declined about 27 percent from a year earlier.
TransUnion, which draws its data from a sample of 27 million consumer records, anticipates the national mortgage delinquency rate will continue to decline in the third quarter, finishing below 4 percent.
‘‘We’re still a long way from what we’d call normal,’’ Martin said.
Source: Boston Globe