Improving loan performance doesn't make headlines any longer, but worth noting that the improvement is still good news.  The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) says the first quarter of 2018 saw even more progress in reducing delinquencies, improvement noted across all categories of distress.  The MBA's National Delinquency Survey shows a 54-basis point (bp) reduction in the overall delinquency rate compared to the fourth quarter of 2018 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.63 percent.  It is also an 8-bps decline since the first quarter of last year.

Delinquencies were down in all stages on a quarter-over-quarter basis.  The 30-day bucket dropped 27 bps while the 60-day and 90-day delinquency buckets retreated 9 and 18 basis points respectively.

The delinquency rate does not include loans in the process of foreclosure. That rate at the end of the first quarter was 1.16 percent, down 3 bps and 23 bps from the fourth quarter and year-ago rates respectively. This was the lowest foreclosure inventory rate since the third quarter of 2006. Economic factors and increasing home equity levels contributed to the decline in the foreclosure inventory, but extended hurricane related foreclosure moratoria probably played a part in the historic low levels as well.

Foreclosures were started on 0.28 percent of active loans.  This was a 3-bps increase from the fourth quarter but was down 2 bps from one year ago.

"Mortgage delinquencies decreased from the previous quarter across all loan types - conventional, VA, and in particular, FHA - as the effects of the September hurricanes dissipated," according to Marine Walsh, MBA's Vice President of Industry Analysis.

"The strong economy, low unemployment rate, tax refunds and bonuses and home price appreciation were key factors that helped push delinquencies down in the first quarter. Of course, there are offsetting factors that may put upward pressure on delinquency rates in future quarters, including: a difficult recovery for some borrowers in hurricane-impacted states; the aging of loan portfolios; higher interest rates that limit a borrower's rate-term refinance options; higher energy prices; stretching of housing affordability given limited supply; and the easing of credit overlays as mortgage market conditions have changed."  

The FHA delinquency rate fell 136 basis points over the previous quarter - the largest single-quarter decline ever reported to the National Delinquency Survey.  Despite this, the FHA delinquency rate was up 93 basis points year over year. The conventional and VA delinquency rates were also down from the previous quarter, by 41 bps and 17 bps respectively.  Conventional loan delinquencies declined 26 bps on an annual basis, but VA loans saw a 42-bps increase compared to a year earlier.  

MBA said the two states most heavily affected by last fall's hurricanes, Texas and Florida, appear to be past the worst in terns of storm-related delinquencies.  The non-seasonally-adjusted overall mortgage delinquency rate in Texas dropped by 171 basis points to 5.62 percent in the first quarter, not quite as low as the last completed reporting period prior to Hurricane Harvey when it was 5.05 percent.   In Florida, the rate has dropped 230 basis points to 6.59 percent. Prior to Hurricane Irma the state's overall delinquency rate was 4.07 percent.  Four out of the top five states with the highest serious delinquency rates had been impacted to some degree by the hurricanes; Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The remaining state was New Jersey.