February's foreclosure inventory fell to lowest rate since 1999

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Strong levels of employment and continued economic expansion drove February's mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures to 20-year lows, according to CoreLogic's Loan Performance Insights Report.

The overall mortgage delinquency rate fell to 4% in February from 4.8% the year prior and stayed static from January. Early-stage delinquencies edged down annually to 2% from 2.1% and the foreclosure inventory rate went to 0.4% from 0.6% year-over-year, matching a low last seen in 1999.

"The persistently impressive economic expansion continues to drive down housing market distress, with delinquencies and foreclosures hitting near two-decade lows," Ralph McLaughlin, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic, said in a press release. "Furthermore, with unemployment at a 50-year low, wage growth nearing double inflation and a positive demographic structure that will drive housing demand upwards, the future of U.S. housing and mortgage markets look bright even if short term indicators suggest cooling."

The share of mortgages 60-89 days past due declined 0.1 percentage points year-over-year to 0.6%. The serious delinquency rate — mortgages 90 or more days past due, including foreclosures — fell to 1.4% from 2.1% from February 2018. The serious delinquency rate was the lowest it's been since September 2006 and the lowest seen in February since 2001.

"Given the economic outlook, we are likely to see more declines over the balance of this year," said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. "Reflective of the drop in delinquency rates, no state experienced a year-over-year increase in its foreclosure inventory rate so far in 2019."

Mortgage health has now improved nationally year-over-year for 14 straight months. However, natural disasters caused delinquency rates to rise in 11 metro areas, with the largest jumps coming in the Southeast U.S.

The Panama City, Fla., serious delinquency rate increased 2 percentage points year-over-year, followed by Albany, Ga., with a 0.9 percentage point rise, and Jacksonville, N.C., with a 0.7 percentage point gain.

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Foreclosures Mortgage defaults Natural disasters Economy CoreLogic