Mortgage Balances Increase the Most Since '08: Equifax

The balance of all first mortgages reached its highest figure in two years totaling $7.97 trillion, according to the latest Equifax national consumer credit trends report.

First mortgages increased 2.8% from a year earlier in February, the largest year-over-year uptick since September 2008.

Delinquent first mortgages accounted for 5.7% of outstanding balances in February, which is down 22% from a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the overall balance of first mortgages that are seriously delinquent or in foreclosure is less than $270 billion, Equifax noted in the report. This is a six-year low and was down approximately 27% from a year earlier.

"The decline in mortgage balances from accelerated amortization and foreclosure write-offs has finally been overcome by increases in mortgage debt due to home purchase lending," said Amy Crews Cutts, chief economist for Equifax, in Monday's report.

Mortgage debt balances are likely to continue to grow during the spring and summer homebuying seasons, when the volume of new loans usually increases, Crews Cutts added. Furthermore, rising home values and improving employment conditions should lower the number of mortgage defaults, she continued.

The Atlanta company also reported on Monday that write-offs of mortgage debt, year to date, in February were $17.9 billion, 41% lower than a year earlier. There was $149 billion in home finance write-offs in all of 2013, a decrease of more than 30% from 2012, Equifax said.

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