While subprime adjustable-rate foreclosures starts dropped in the third quarter of 2009 (from 5.52 percent to 4.92 percent), both the number and pace of FHA backed and prime fixed-rate mortgage defaults climbed.

One out of every six FHA mortgages was late by at least one payment and 3.32 percent were in foreclosure, the highest for both since at least 1979, the Mortgage Bankers Association said today. The delinquency rate for prime fixed-rate mortgages, considered home loans with the least risk, rose to 5.8 percent and the foreclosure inventory rose to 1.95 percent, the highest since at least 1972.

The percentage of loans on which foreclosure actions were started was a record 1.42 percent. New foreclosures on prime fixed-rate loans increased to 0.71 percent from 0.67 percent, while FHA foreclosure starts rose to 1.31 percent from 1.15 percent.

From DataQuick today:

Federally-insured FHA loans, a popular choice among first-time buyers, made up 25.9 percent of all Bay Area purchase loans [in October]. That was up from 24.9 percent in September, 19 percent a year ago and less than 1 percent two years ago.

And while default rates are climbing, keep in mind money remains historically cheap:

The 30-year rate dropped to 4.83 percent from 4.91 percent, the lowest since May, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac of McLean, Virginia, said today in a statement. The average 15-year rate fell to 4.32 percent, the lowest since records began in 1991.

FHA, Prime Mortgage Defaults at Records on Job Losses [Bloomberg]
OMG For The FHA [SocketSite]
U.S. Mortgage Rates Fall for Third Consecutive Week [Bloomberg]

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