The foreclosure rate in Minnesota is now at the lowest level in more than a decade, and far below the national average.

At the end of September, just 0.2 percent of all Minnesota homeowners with a mortgage lost their homes to foreclosure, according to CoreLogic, which tracks mortgage delinquencies at several intervals. That rate was down from 0.3 percent last year and was only about a third of the national average.

At the same time, far fewer homeowners are having trouble staying current on their mortgage payments. In Minnesota, 2.9 percent of all homeowners were 30 or more days late on their payment compared with 3.1 percent last year.

"We're encouraged to see another year of flat or declining delinquency rates for homeowners across Minnesota," said Julie Gugin, director of the Minnesota Homeownership Center. "It shows people are in the right homes for their families and their wallets."

During the height of the foreclosure crisis, the organization's counselors were overwhelmed by demand from homeowners who needed help avoiding foreclosure, Gugin said. Today, the need has shifted to providing unbiased information and hands-on financial coaching for low-income families that want to buy a home.

"They want to make choices based on solid and factual information," Gugin said. "Rent prices are on the rise and homeownership is a valuable asset-building alternate for some families."

Gugin said that while declining foreclosures are clearly a positive sign, underlying problems linger. Namely, the recession and subsequent economic recovery only broadened the homeownership gap in Minnesota. There are more low-income families than before that are unable to own a home.

"Our goal is to ensure that homeownership's benefits are fairly available and sustainable to everyone, no matter their race or where they live," she said. "Next year — and even 10 years from now — we want the delinquency rate to stay low, and with a closed homeownership gap. Individuals and families, communities and our state would be better off as a result."

Foreclosure rates across the country are also falling. Nationwide, the foreclosure rate fell slightly from 0.8 percent to 0.6 percent, and the 30-day plus delinquency rate fell from 5.2 percent last year to 5.0 percent in September. There was a slight increase, however, in the number of homeowners who were 30 to 59 days late on their payments, mostly because of hurricane-related troubles in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.