The Mortgage Bankers Association in its quarterly snapshot of the mortgage market released Thursday said that the percentage of all mortgages nationwide that started the foreclosure process jumped to a record high of 0.78 percent during the July-to-September period. That surpassed the previous high of 0.65 percent set in the prior quarter.
More homeowners also fell behind on their monthly payments.
The delinquency rate for all mortgages climbed to 5.59 percent in the third quarter. That was up from 5.12 percent in the second quarter and was the highest since 1986, the association said. Payments are considered delinquent if they are 30 or more days past due.
Homeowners with spotty credit who have subprime adjustable-rate loans were especially hard hit. Foreclosures and late payments for these borrowers also reached all-time highs in the third quarter.
The percentage of subprime adjustable-rate mortgages that entered the foreclosure process soared to a record of 4.72 percent in the third quarter. That was up from 3.84 percent in the second quarter. Late payments jumped to a record high of 18.81 in the third quarter, up from 16.95 percent in the second quarter.
The association's survey covers more than 45 million home loans nationwide.
The new figures came as President Bush, accused by Democrats and other critics of not doing enough to help stem the mortgage crisis, was set to unveil a plan Thursday that would allow some homeowners with certain subprime home loans to freeze their interest rate for five years. The plan aims to prevent some distressed borrowers from losing their homes. It also is intended to ease the danger facing the economy from a wave of foreclosures - something that would further aggravate problems in the housing market.
According to White House press secretary Dana Perino, not all subprime mortgage holders will qualify for the program. The government estimates about a million will get help, according to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller.
Perino says no taxpayer dollars are being spent as part of the program.
Homeowners with spotty credit histories or low incomes who took out higher-risk subprime adjustable-rate mortgages have suffered the most distress as the housing market went from boom to bust.
Initially low interest rates that reset to much higher rates have clobbered these borrowers. Analysts estimate that nearly 2 million adjustable-rate subprime mortgages will reset to higher rates this year and next.
Doug Duncan, the association's chief economist, said in an interview with The Associated Press that foreclosures and late payments are likely to stay high or get worse in the coming quarters.
The mortgage meltdown has hit financial companies with billions of dollars in losses from bad subprime mortgage investments. Some lenders have been forced out of businesses. The situation has elevated the odds of the country falling into a recession. It has roiled Wall Street and has offered lots of fodder for Democrats and Republicans to blame each other for the mess.
Against this backdrop, the Federal Reserve next week is expected to slice a key interest rate for a third time this year to bolster the economy.