Amid growing concern that the problems of the savings and loan industry are beginning to show up in the nation's banks, problem real estate loans are mounting rapidly among banks nationwide, including the Washington region, an area once perceived as having a virtually bulletproof market.

From Texas to Florida to the Northeast, sharp increases in the number of financial institutions reporting troubled real estate assets foreshadowed fundamental problems among S&Ls that ultimately fell into federal government hands. Regulators of the nation's banking system have warned recently of seeing similar strains, although most banks stand on a much more solid base than did many small S&Ls.

Against this backdrop, a new survey indicates that the Washington area, among many others, may be entering the early stages of a similar downward drift.

The report from the Wakefield, Mass., bank consulting company Veribanc Inc. found that the jurisdictions that make up the Washington area lagged behind only New England and the New York area in the growth rates of their "nonperforming" real estate loans in the first quarter of the year, referring to loans that are in default and are no longer paying interest. The overall percentage of problem loans locally still is below levels in New England and New York.

But in the District, for example, where the survey included 26 banks, the percentage of nonperforming real estate loans had grown by 154.2 percent since the previous year. In Virginia, where 182 banks were studied, the percentage of bad loans nearly doubled, to 104 percent. In Maryland, where 111 banks were reviewed, the rate grew by about 56 percent.

The real estate-related loan problems in the Washington area boosted the region into the top one-quarter nationally among regions where such troubles are worsening, said Warren Heller, Veribanc research director.

"The {price} inflation in houses and buildings in Washington has been meteoric in the last few decades. You could argue that it has been unsustainable and that it is taking a correction," Heller said.

As bank problems echo those of the savings and loans, so have the commercial real estate problems elsewhere in the United States found their way to Washington, said economist Michael Sumichrast, publisher of Real Estate Perspectives and an expert on the real estate-related loan problems of the nation's thrifts.

"To simply believe the banks are immune to the problems of the savings and loan industry is to believe Washington is immune to a recession," Sumichrast said. "It makes no sense at all."

The growing problem of bad real estate loans has raised questions about business practices among the nation's banks, and legislators are considering steps that might be taken to prevent a multibillion-dollar rescue of the banking industry similar to the savings and loan crisis.

The House committee on banking, finance and urban affairs today will hear testimony on commercial real estate lending policies among the nation's banks. A particular focus will be why more than 70 banks were willing to lend New York developer Donald Trump $2 billion, primarily for real estate ventures, including some loans that reportedly did not require Trump to put up any collateral to secure them.

The total percentages of bad real estate loans in the three local states cited in the Veribanc study remain small in comparison to the problems plaguing areas that widely are recognized as recession-bound.

Even with the big percentage increases here, about 4 percent of all real estate loans went sour in the District, and about 2 percent have fallen similarly into default in Virginia and Maryland. In contrast, in Arizona, 17 percent of the loans are bad; in Texas, 16 percent; and in Massachusetts, 10 percent.

But two recent events have raised additional fears about problem real estate lending here. Last week, the District-based National Bank of Washington and the Vienna-based United Savings Bank S&L were seized by federal regulators. Both had been weakened by real estate-related losses.

Nationwide, Veribanc found that real estate loan performance in 29 of the 50 states had deteriorated from the previous year. In seven states, more than 10 percent of all real estate loans are in default, Veribanc said.

The situation is improving in some areas, according to the report, although the circumstances might be characterized as shifting from a disaster to a mere crisis. In Texas, for example, about 16 percent of all real estate loans are in default, down from 18 percent the year earlier.