Foreclosures are falling quickly as more borrowers keep up with their mortgage payments and banks complete more loan modifications or approve short sales to avoid foreclosures on their books.

For the first time since 2008, the number of borrowers who are behind on their payments or in foreclosure dropped below 5 million, according to a new report reflecting March data by Lender Processing Services.

The number of mortgages in foreclosure dropped to below 1.69 million in March, which marks the lowest level in nearly four years and a drop of nearly 20 percent compared to one year ago.

About 3.4 percent of all U.S. mortgages were in foreclosure by the end of March, which is a decrease from 4.2 percent a year ago, Lender Processing Services reports.

In March, about 6.6 percent of all borrowers were in some stage of delinquency, excluding those in foreclosure. That percentage is down by 3 percent from a year ago, but is still high by historical standards. Prior to the housing crisis, about 5 percent of all borrowers were delinquent on their mortgages and 1 percent of loans were in foreclosure, LPS reports.

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