Prepayments pour in ahead of spring buying season, delinquencies drop

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Mortgage prepayments came gushing in at the start of the spring home buying season as delinquencies also improved, according to Black Knight.

Prepayment activity shot up 28% in March from February, on lower mortgage rates and ahead of an anticipated competitive spring purchase season. The increase to a prepayment rate of 0.84% marks the greatest monthly growth for prepayments in 2.5 years.

At the same time, outstanding 90-day delinquencies fell below 500,000 for the first time in 12 years, and foreclosure starts sunk to their lowest single-month level in more than 18 years, with 39,700 starts. The decline held the foreclosure supply at a steady 264,000.

Foreclosure sales — as a percentage of loans 90 or more days delinquent — increased 11.6% month-over-month to 1.65%, but were still down 2.67% from the same period last year.

Mortgage delinquency rates overall fell 5.3% in March from the prior month, a solid clip for a month ending on a Sunday (when historically delinquencies tend to increase) and follows February's atypical rise in delinquencies.

It is, however, on the weaker side for a March overall, considering the month is typically the strongest in terms of mortgage performance, according to Black Knight. This was the smallest improvement for any March in the past six years.

The number of mortgages 90 or more days past due, but not yet in foreclosure, dropped below the 500,000 mark for the first time in 12 years, landing at 493,000 loans. This is down by 8,000 from February and by 139,000 from the same period a year ago.

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