Residential mortgage delinquencies in South Carolina declined in the first quarter of 2011, as they did nationwide, but foreclosures in the state ticked up.

The statistics, in two new reports from the Mortgage Bankers Association, suggested that broad national trends involving residential mortgage loans and foreclosures are encouraging, with great variations from state to state.

"Most of these numbers continue to point to a mortgage market on the mend," said Jay Brinkmann, the MBA's chief economist.

"Loans 90 days or more delinquent have now dropped for five straight quarters and are at their lowest level since the beginning of 2009," he said. "Foreclosure starts are at the lowest level since the end of 2008 and had the second largest drop ever."

In South Carolina, the percentage of loans that were in some stage of foreclosure edged up slightly in the first three months of the year. The unadjusted quarterly results did not reflect a S.C. Supreme Court order that temporary halted foreclosures on owner-occupied homes, because that order was issued early this month.

More than a quarter of the subprime adjustable-rate mortgages in South Carolina were delinquent in the first quarter of this year, and more than 16 percent were additionally in foreclosure. At the other end of the loan spectrum, 5 percent of fixed prime-rate mortgages were delinquent and less than 3 percent were in foreclosure.

At the national level, hard-hit Florida, Nevada and Arizona accounted for large chunks of the nation's foreclosed and delinquent properties. Florida alone accounts for 24 percent of the residential foreclosures nationwide, the MBA report said.

South Carolina continued to have higher rates of delinquencies and foreclosures than most states, ranking 13th in delinquencies and 15th in the number of foreclosures initiated during the quarter, according to the MBA report.

The percentage of residential properties in the process of foreclosure in Palmetto State -- which are not counted in the delinquency rate -- increased slightly during the first quarter to just over 4 percent.

The MBA expects continued improvement in the national mortgage loan picture.

"Of particular importance is that the drop in the percentage of loans 90 days or more past due was driven by improving numbers for loans originated between 2005 and 2007," Brinkmann said.

"Given that loans originated during this period are now past the point where loans normally default, and that loans originated since then generally have better credit quality, mortgage performance should continue to improve."

Late loans

Foreclosure and delinquency rates for residential mortgages in South Carolina, first quarter of 2011, not seasonally adjusted.

Loans classified as delinquent but not in foreclosure:

Reach David Slade at 937-5552.