Realty Check

The new mortgage landscape: What you need to know

Troels Graugaard | E+ | Getty Images

Home mortgage debt rose in the third quarter of this year for the first time since the end of 2008, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve.

It is a healthy sign for the housing market, arguably, but it is not exactly what it seems at face value. Mortgage debt is growing largely because banks are foreclosing on fewer homes, thereby wiping away less debt.

During the last few years, record-low mortgage rates prompted millions of Americans to refinance their home loans, but a sluggish market, dominated by all-cash investors, kept loans to purchase a home in the negative. That too, however, is beginning to change.