Mortgage delinquency rates for Maryland and Virginia were incorrectly reported in a chart in yesterday's Business section. The Maryland rate was 3.82 percent and the Virginia rate was 3.88 percent. (Published 12/19/90)

The number of Americans behind on their home mortgage payments rose sharply during the summer, particularly in the Northeast and South, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America reported yesterday.

Warren Lasko, executive vice president of the association, said the number of delinquent payments is likely to continue rising because "we all know we're in a recession, that unemployment rates are up and that people are struggling more to meet their obligations."

The report said that 5 percent of all loans surveyed were overdue in the July-September period, up from 4.52 percent in the second quarter.

By category, the biggest increase came in loans 30 days overdue, which rose by a third of a percentage point to 3.47 percent. The report was based on a survey of 15.5 million loans, or about one-third of all residential mortgages in the country, according to the trade group.

Delinquencies of two months and three months rose slightly -- to 0.78 percent from 0.70 percent for the 60-day period and to 0.75 percent from 0.69 percent for the 90-day period. However, financial executives consider increases in these two categories more alarming than increases in loans that are late by only one month. The lengthier delays often signal serious problems and foreclosures are likely to follow, the association said.

Although the third-quarter figures were higher than the second quarter's, they were not much higher than the figures recorded in the third quarter of 1989.

In the District, for example, the highest delinquency rate over the summer was at 5.79 percent of all loans, but this was a drop from 5.96 percent in last year's third quarter, according to the report. An even bigger drop in past-due mortgages came in Virginia, where the overall delinquency rate was 3.88 percent, down from 4.24 percent in 1989. Maryland reported that 3.82 percent of loans were delinquent, down from 3.96 percent last year. (Because individual state figures are not adjusted to take into account seasonal variations in the housing market, the mortgage bankers group compares only the same quarters in different years and not consecutive quarters.)

Washington-area lenders said they are optimistic that home mortgage delinquencies will not get out of control, despite some downward real estate trends in the region.

Dominion Bankshares Mortgage Corp.'s delinquency rate for loans 30 days or more late dropped to 3.01 percent at the end of November, down from 3.47 percent a month earlier, said President John Karaszewski.

Karaszewski said he expects the ratio of delinquencies to go up, however, "because of the weakness in the economy and also the fact that {delinquencies} go up on a seasonal basis around December and January."

Karaszewski believes evidence that "we're in a recession" is cause for concern. Lenders should "be very cognizant and you have to service loans more efficiently, make more phone calls. If a payment is late on the 16th of the month, you should make a phone call."

C. William Blomquist, president of Perpetual Mortgage Co., the area's largest mortgage lender, said he believes the number of delinquent loan payments is staying about the same in the Washington area. "Even though this economy is down some, a lot of mortgages are underwritten properly," he said. "Many {lenders} never got involved that much in teaser loans," in which borrowers secured low initial rates that rose sharply through the life of the loans. Such loans were a major cause of high delinquency rates in California.

Another plus for Washington-area mortgage lenders is an increase in the number of refinancings as interest rates have declined in recent weeks, Blomquist said.