U.S. foreclosures at lowest level since 2007

By Melody Simmons The Daily Record Newswire A new report shows a 34 percent decline in the number of foreclosure filings in the United States last year, to the lowest level since 2007. RealtyTrac, an online foreclosure data firm, released its year-end report Thursday. In it, figures show there were nearly 2.7 million foreclosure actions -- which include default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions. In all, nearly 1.9 million properties nationwide were affected, a 34 percent decrease over 2010 figures. The 2011 foreclosure activity was 33 percent below the 2009 total and 19 percent below the 2008 total, the RealtyTrac report said. One in 69 U.S. houses had at least one foreclosure in 2011, the report said, also a decrease over 2010 figures. In Maryland, the RealtyTrac report said there were 14,421 foreclosure filings last year, or one in every 162 housing units, a 66 percent decline over 2010 figures. The state's decrease was largely due to a new law requiring foreclosure mediation, which went into effect in 2011. The national foreclosure drop was, in part, a result of a slowdown in foreclosure action stemming from reports of fraud in bank foreclosure processes, officials said. "Foreclosures were in full delay mode in 2011, resulting in a dramatic drop in foreclosure activity for the year," said Brandon Moore, RealtyTrac's CEO, in a statement. "The lack of clarity regarding many of the documentation and legal issues plaguing the foreclosure industry means that we are continuing to see a highly dysfunctional foreclosure process that is inefficiently dealing with delinquent mortgages -- particularly in states with a judicial foreclosure process. Still, Moore said, some of the stalled foreclosures are expected to go through in the first two quarters of 2012. "There were strong signs in the second half of 2011 that lenders are finally beginning to push through some of the delayed foreclosures in select local markets. We expect that trend to continue this year, boosting foreclosure activity for 2012 higher than it was in 2011, though still below the peak of 2010," Moore said. In December, foreclosure activity hit a 49-month low, the report said. Scheduled auctions were up in fourth quarter of 2011 and foreclosure filings were reported on 205,024 U.S. properties, a decrease of 9 percent from the previous month and down 20 percent from December 2010. The biggest foreclosure rates were posted in Nevada, Arizona and California last year, the report said. Nevada's rate was the highest in the nation for the fifth straight year as more than 6 percent of all housing units there had at least one foreclosure filing in 2011. In Arizona, one in 24 housing units received at least one foreclosure notice last year, and California's rate was one in every 31 housing units. Georgia had the fourth highest foreclosure rate with one in every 37 housing units, the report said, followed by Michigan, Florida, Illinois, Colorado and Idaho. Published: Mon, Jan 16, 2012