More S.C. homeowners falling behind on mortgage payments

COLUMBIA -- Almost one in 10 S.C. homeowners was behind on mortgage payments or in foreclosure at the end of September.

And the state's high unemployment rate indicates more people will have trouble making payments next year.

In South Carolina, 9.4 percent of homeowners were at least 30 days past due or in the process of foreclosure in the third quarter, according to data released Friday by the Mortgage Bankers Association. That is up from 8.1 percent in the same period last year.

Of the 666,729 mortgages serviced in the state, 7.4 percent were delinquent and 2 percent were in foreclosure, the MBA reported.

Nationally, the percentage of homeowners past due or in foreclosure reached record highs at 10 percent, said Jay Brinkmann, the MBA's chief economist.

Foreclosure rates have been climbing in recent years because of subprime lending practices. In many cases, people bought homes they could not afford after adjustable rates rose.

However, as the subprime lending market worked itself out, economists thought foreclosure rates would slow, Brinkmann said. Friday's news on November job cuts led Brinkmann to predict 2009 foreclosure rates would continue rising.

"We have not gone into past recessions with the housing market as weak as it is now," Brinkmann said. "So, it is likely that a much higher percentage of delinquencies caused by job losses will go to foreclosure than we have seen in the past."