The percentage of Winston-Salem-area homeowners late on their mortgage payments continued to decline in April, CoreLogic, a national real-estate research firm, reported Tuesday.

The rate was 4.7% in Forsyth, Davidson, Davie, Stokes and Yadkin counties, down from 5.1% a year earlier.

The report focuses on the delinquent-mortgage market, with “delinquent” defined as being at least 30 days overdue on payment.

The delinquency rate was 1.5% for mortgage payments more than 90 days past due, down from 1.7% a year earlier. Both figures include houses in the foreclosure pipeline.

Economists say housing markets and lenders are benefiting from more homeowners being able to stay current on their monthly mortgage payments, in part because of employers increasing hiring.

There also has been an upswing, both locally and nationally, in private-equity groups buying houses and then renting them out as they await higher home prices.

For the Greensboro-High Point metro area, the 30-day delinquency rate was 5%, down from 5.4% a year earlier, while the delinquency rate of more than 90 days was unchanged at 1.8%.

“Thanks to a 50-year low in unemployment, rising home prices and responsible underwriting, the U.S. overall delinquency rate is the lowest in more than 20 years,” said Frank Nothaft, the chief economist at CoreLogic.

On May 11, Attom Data Solutions reported that the number of Winston-Salem area households considered as seriously underwater on their mortgages rose slightly during the fourth quarter. A mortgage is considered as underwater when a homeowner owes more than the house is worth.

Attom also found a slight decrease in area homeowners in the equity-rich stage toward paying off their mortgage.

Attom defines seriously underwater as owing at least 25% more on a mortgage than the property’s value. It defines equity-rich as a mortgage with a loan-to-home value of 50% or lower.

The Winston-Salem area had 17,493 households listed as seriously underwater. That’s 12.7% of households, up from 11.2% a year earlier.

The number of Winston-Salem area households listed as equity-rich fell from 22,861 in the first quarter of 2018 to 21,680. The current equity-rich rate is 15.8%, down from 17.5% a year earlier.

The Greensboro-High Point metro-area counties had 17,055 housing units listed as seriously underwater, or 11.9%, up from 10.7% a year earlier.

Attom found that 20,931 households in the Greensboro-High Point region were considered equity-rich, or 14.6%. The rate was 15.9% a year earlier.

Officials with the Winston-Salem Regional Association of Realtors have cautioned that information on underwater loans can affect the real-estate market by undermining consumer confidence, causing some hesitation in buying or trying to sell a house now, and prompting an overreaction.

Many banks and mortgage lenders have accelerated the pace of pushing unsalvageable mortgages through the foreclosure process in recent years.

Their main motivation: Provisions for potential loan losses on commercial and residential mortgages have a direct effect on banks’ bottom lines.

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