The declining interest rates earlier in the year along with increased refinancing made themselves felt in March as prepayment activity surged.  Black Knight, in its "first look" at the month's mortgage data, notes the rate rose 28 percent compared to February.  It was the largest single-month increase in 2.5 years although the rate prepayment rate, 0.84 percent, is down more than 4 percent year-over-year. 

The national delinquency rate fell by 5.3% for the month, the smallest improvement for any March in six years in what is typically the strongest-performing month of the year.  The month however ended on a Sunday which often leads to an increase in 30-day delinquencies.  It also followed an atypical increase in delinquencies in February.

Mortgages that were 30 days or more past due but not in foreclosure fell by 5.30 percent from February and 1.97 percent year-over-year to a rate of 3.65 percent.   At the end of the month there were 1,903,000 delinquent loans excluding those in foreclosure, down by 98,000 from February and 9,000 from the previous March.

Serious delinquencies, those 90 days or more past due but not in foreclosure numbered 493,000 at the end of March.  An 8,000-loan decline from February put the number of 90-day plus delinquencies under 500,000 for the first time in more than 12 years.  This bucket is 139,000 loans smaller than in 2018.

There were 39,7000 foreclosure starts during the month.  Black Knight said this was the fewest in more than 18 years and down 24 percent on an annual basis.

While the number of loans entering foreclosure was down, fewer foreclosures and cures kept the foreclosure inventory unchanged from February at 264,000 units.  This was 57,000 fewer loans in the process of foreclosure than a year earlier.

The company will provide a more in-depth review of this data in its monthly Mortgage Monitor report.  It will be released by May 6, 2019.