According to credit giant TransUnion, after six months of increases, mortgage delinquencies were down in the first quarter of the year. (They had been going down for 18 months, until the Q3 of 2011, when they started to rise again.)

The national mortgage delinquency rate (“delinquent” = 60 or more days past due) was 5.8 percent — its lowest point since Q1 2009.

The improvement is also more widespread said the company, with 73 percent of metropolitan areas seeing improvement in Q1 2012. (Less than half that many saw improvement in the second half of 2011.)

Calling the figures “welcome news,” Tim Martin, group vice president of U.S. Housing for TransUnion, said that “while we are still about three-times above the pre-recession norm, this should mark the start of consistent improvement each quarter.”