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Foreclosure Filings in U.S. Plunge 35% to Lowest in Four Years

Foreclosure Filings in U.S. Plunge 35%
A "bank owned" sign sits outside a foreclosed home in the Mountain's Edge neighborhood of Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. Photographer: Jacob Kepler/Bloomberg

U.S. foreclosure filings dropped 35 percent last month to the lowest level in almost four years as lenders and state and federal agencies increased efforts to keep delinquent borrowers in their homes, RealtyTrac Inc. said.

A total of 212,764 properties received default, auction or repossession notices, the fewest in 44 months, the Irvine, California-based data seller said today. Filings fell on a year-over-year basis for the 10th straight month, and were down 4 percent from June. One in 611 households got a notice.

“The downward trend in foreclosure activity has now taken on a life of its own,” RealtyTrac Chief Executive Officer James J. Saccacio said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the falloff in foreclosures is not based on a robust recovery in the housing market but on short-term interventions and delays that will extend the current housing market woes into 2012 and beyond.”

The decline in foreclosure notices began last year when attorneys general across the country began probing a practice known as “robo-signing,” in which lenders and servicers pushed through default documents without verifying their accuracy. Now federal and state officials are also contributing to the slowdown with payment assistance and loan modifications, RealtyTrac said.

President Barack Obama’s administration yesterday said it’s seeking ways to rent, sell or dispose of foreclosed homes controlled by the government. The goal is to “bring stability and liquidity” to the housing market, Edward J. DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, said in a statement. The FHFA regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which together guarantee about 90 percent of U.S. mortgages.

Prices Decline

Home values fell in almost three-quarters of U.S. cities in the second quarter from a year earlier as prices were undermined by distressed sales, the National Association of Realtors said yesterday in a report.

Default notices were filed on 59,516 U.S. properties last month, down 7 percent from June and 39 percent from July 2010, RealtyTrac said. Auctions were scheduled for 85,419 properties, the fewest in three years. That was a decrease of 5 percent from the previous month and 37 percent from a year earlier.

Home repossessions fell to 67,829, a decline of 1 percent from June and 27 percent from last July. Bucking the trend, states including New York, Massachusetts, Georgia, Virginia and Illinois had increases of 20 percent or more from June. Texas home seizures rose 15 percent.

“The logjam may be starting to break up to a certain extent, but it seems to be happening as a local occurrence,” Daren Blomquist, a RealtyTrac spokesman, said in a telephone interview.

Nevada Is Highest

Nevada had the highest rate of filings per household for the 55th straight month, at one in 115. California was second at one in 239, and Arizona third at one in 273. Georgia, Utah, Florida, Michigan, Idaho, Illinois and Wisconsin were among the top 10.

California led the nation with the most total filings at 56,193, followed by Florida at 22,377 and Georgia at 11,461. Michigan was fourth at 10,894 and Illinois fifth at 10,627.

Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin rounded out the top 10, said RealtyTrac, which sells default data from more than 2,200 counties representing 90 percent of the U.S. population.

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