The state's stagnant economy of the past three years caught up with homeowners in 1988, with Utah coming in at No. 2 nationally for making late mortgage payments.
But the Mortgage Bankers Association of America report says while Utahns may be slow on making payments, the number of foreclosures in the state is lower than the Mountain West average."I wouldn't say they're deadbeats. They're just a little slower in paying," Jeff Thredgold, Key Bank of Utah chief economist, said Saturday.
The study said 9.13 percent of Utah mortgage holders are behind at least 30 days in their payments. That compares to an Mountain West area rate of 5.71 percent and to 4.75 percent nationally. Alaska came in at the top with a 15 percent delinquency rate.
"In terms of the more serious consequence, Utah is actually less than the average in the Intermountain area" for the number of repossessed homes, said Thredgold.
"In terms of delinquency, Utah is second in the nation but the majority of those people make up the payment in the next 30 days."
But in terms of foreclosures, Thredgold said, "Utah drops down to 1.84 percent, and that is less than the average of Intermountain states of 1.90 percent."
That compares to 2.85 percent of Wyoming homeowners whose residences are foreclosed and 2.77 percent in Colorado.
And foreclosures generally involve first-time homebuyers, who are younger and more affected by swings in the economy in terms of seniority in employment, Thredgold said.
"Home ownership is a big deal in Utah, and what the figures seem to show is that first-time homebuyers tend to get over extended," he said. "People tend to marry early in Utah, they tend to have families earlier, they tend to buy a home earlier and some just aren't ready for it."
Thredgold maintains the figures compiled by the bankers association are "an indicator of the past more than anything else."
It took some time for the weak economy from 1985 to 1987 to catch up with people's savings and reserves.
Yet Utah's economy has rebounded in the past 12 months and especially the past six months, Thredgold said. The state was second the nation for the number of manufacturing jobs created.
"But the economy has picked up very sharply, especially in terms of job creation and I think the impact of job creation . . . is providing that much more income to keep people current on payments."
Thredgold said 25,000 new jobs were created in the past 12 months, and that will help stop the flood of residents leaving Utah for greener pastures.
"We're creating jobs now at a pace that would bring net out-migration of people to a stop" to the flow of people out of Utah during the past four years.
One of the results of the the early age of homebuyers is private mortgage companies are shying away from Utah. But Thredgold said the relatively high delinquency rate is "more true over the last few years than it will be over the next few years."
Add to the sluggish economy the state's stagnant real estate prices. In the 1970s, home values were increasing at 10 percent a year. "For the last few years, Utah real estate prices have been going sideways."
Mountain West area.71 percent
Foreclosure rate: Utah.84 percent
Mountain West area.90 percent