The oft-noted trend of consumers' defaulting on mortgages while continuing to pay their credit cards has spread to the most creditworthy borrowers, Fair Isaac Corp. said Tuesday.

Last year, 0.3% of people with FICO scores from 760 to 789 defaulted on real estate loans, compared with 0.1% who defaulted on credit cards, said the Minneapolis company, which uses the brand name FICO. FICO considers borrowers who are more than 90 days delinquent to be in serious delinquency or default.

"This used to be a problem for subprime," Mark Greene, the chief executive officer of FICO, said in an interview on Feb. 19. "Now we're starting to see at the high end of the marketplace people, with good FICO scores, having serious delinquency problems," he said.

Mortgages have historically been the first debt obligation people repay.

But since at least 2007, data from the credit bureaus has indicated that subprime borrowers have become more likely to be late in paying mortgages than credit cards.

Greene, 55, who joined FICO in February 2007, said people with higher credit scores may be late with mortgage payments on second homes, which are viewed as investment properties.

Homeowners also may be strategically defaulting — that is, choosing to stop making payments on homes whose market value has slipped beneath the amount they still owe, according to Greene.

FICO analyzed data of more than 9 million consumers, said Craig Watts, a spokesman for the company, and 12.3% had scores from 760 to 789.

About 20 million U.S. consumers have FICO scores in that range, he said.

FICO scores rank borrowers according to their likelihood of defaulting in the next 24 months. They range from 300 to 850.

The scores are used by 90% of the 100 largest U.S. banks.

Mortgage lenders use the scores in more than 75% of all residential loan originations, according to FICO.

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