U.S. mortgage quality improves, but foreclosures on the rise

FILE PHOTO - A boarded-up foreclosed home sits empty in the town of Ridgefield in Bergen County, New Jersey, March 25, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More Americans were keeping up with their mortgages at the beginning of 2017 but the number of foreclosures is also on the rise, a government report said on Thursday.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said that 95.6 percent of first-lien mortgages were current or performing in the first quarter, up from 94.7 percent in the last three months of 2016.

But the bank regulator found that new foreclosure actions jumped 4.5 percent over that period, marking the first increase in two years. Completed foreclosures and other forfeiture actions rose 11.1 percent, the first quarterly increase in more than a year.

The 47,546 home loans that began the foreclosure process in the first quarter represent just 0.7 percent of first-lien mortgages held by large national banks. Another 3.7 percent are either seriously delinquent or 30 to 59 days past due.

The number of foreclosures has fallen steadily for the last several years and stands 19.3 percent lower than a year ago.

The OCC also found that mortgage modifications were climbing, rising 8.7 percent in the first quarter. Monthly mortgage payments were reduced in 88.3 percent of those modifications.

The regulator found that home forfeitures caused by a foreclosure were down 25.3 percent over the last year.

Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli