WASHINGTON -- The delinquency rate on home mortgages in the United States fell in the first three months of the year to its lowest level in six years, a report from the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday.
The seasonally adjusted delinquency rate on all home loans fell to 6.11 percent in the first quarter from 6.39 percent in the prior three months.
That left the rate at its lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2007, which was when America entered a deep recession.
The delinquency rate measures the number of homes that are at least one payment past due, but doesn't include those that have entered into foreclosure.
A steady improvement in the U.S. job market has helped more Americans stay current on their mortgage payments over the last year. The delinquency rate was 7.25 percent in the first quarter of 2013.
"We are seeing sustained and significant improvement in overall mortgage performance," MBA's chief economist Mike Fratantoni said in a statement.
Increasing home prices, he said, brought on by tight inventories of homes for sale, have helped build an equity cushion for many new borrowers and have helped some homeowners who were underwater regain positive equity in their properties.
Fewer homes entered the foreclosure process during the first three months of the year, with seasonally adjusted foreclosure starts down 0.45 percent from 0.54 percent the previous quarter. Foreclosure starts have declined for five of the last six quarters.
Foreclosure inventory was also at its lowest level since the first quarter of 2008, falling to 2.65 percent.
The share of homes considered seriously delinquent also fell, dropping to 5.04 percent. Seriously delinquent homes are at least 90 days late on their mortgage payments or are in the foreclosure process.