It was a record-setting year in terms of the low number of foreclosure starts, partially helped by the various post-storm moratoria, according to Black Knight.

"Just 649,000 foreclosure starts were initiated in 2017, which was the fewest of any year since 2000, with the lowest number of first-time starts on record," Ben Graboske, Black Knight data and analytics executive vice president, said in a press release.

"In fact, first-time foreclosure starts were 15% below 2016 levels and roughly half the annual average seen from 2000-2005. Likewise, the year saw the lowest single-year total for foreclosure completions since the turn of the century."

However, there were also over 125,000 loans which have been in active foreclosure that have not made a payment in two years, with 63,000 of those having gone unpaid for five years or more.

New foreclosures fall

If hurricane-related delinquencies were removed from the data, mortgage loan performance last year continued its post-bust improvement.

There were 2.4 million past-due loans at the end of December, an increase of 164,000 from one year prior, Black Knight previously reported. But that increase was all due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

"When Black Knight isolated non-hurricane-impacted areas — which represent 90% of the entire active U.S. mortgage universe — we see the national delinquency rate actually fell to 11% below long-term norms," said Graboske. "Likewise, the 90-day delinquency rate was also up 6% from last year, with roughly a third more seriously delinquent loans than we'd expect in a healthy market. Excluding the hurricane impact, though, we see that there were 84,000 fewer loans 90 or more days past due than last year; a 14% reduction."

There was a "hurricane effect" on the home equity market, Graboske said. In parts of Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey, the delinquency rate on home equity lines of credit increased by 79 basis points to 1.9% and by 378 basis points for home equity loans to 11.8% from July through November.

An estimated 17,200 second liens became delinquent as a result of the storm, with 5,000 becoming more than 90 days late.

In areas affected by Hurricane Irma, delinquencies on HELOCs during the July to November period increased to 4.4% from 3.2% and on home equity loans to 10.7% from 7.2%.