The number of homeowners who were behind on their mortgages was dramatically lower in February than at the same time a year ago, but the number of homes in foreclosure edged up slightly, according to the latest analysis by mortgage loan data aggregator Lender Processing Services.

Both the number of delinquent loans and homes in foreclosures edged down from January to February, a sign that the total number of non-current loans will continue to decline from a January 2010 peak.

The total number of non-current loans — delinquencies plus homes in foreclosure — was down 14 percent from a year ago, to 6.85 million.

The total number of delinquent mortgages fell 21 percent from a year ago, to 4.66 million, which should eventually help slow the flow of homes into the foreclosure pipeline.

For now, the number of homes in foreclosure surged 4 percent in February compared to a year ago, to 2.19 million. Loans in foreclosure have been delinquent for a record 537 days, and 30 percent had not made a payment in over two years.

Foreclosure inventory levels stand at more than 30 times monthly foreclosure sales volume, indicating the backlog will continue for "quite some time," LPS said.

The most dramatic drop in delinquencies was among mortgages past due by 90 days or more, which fell 29 percent from a year ago, to 2.16 million.

Most of that reduction was due to homes moving into foreclosure. But LPS said 22 percent of loans that were 90 days delinquent 12 months ago are now current — a sign that loan modification programs are paying off in fewer foreclosures.

Homeowners were 60 days behind on another 709,255 loans, down more than 15 percent from a year ago. The number of borrowers who had missed just one payment was down 11 percent from a year ago, to 1.78 million.

States with the highest percentage of non-current loans were Florida, Nevada, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Georgia. Those with the lowest percentage were Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota and North Dakota.

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