U.S. foreclosure filings fell in April to the lowest level in more than six years as inexpensive mortgages and rising demand for homes allowed troubled owners to refinance or sell before losing their properties to lenders.
A total of 144,790 properties received notices of default, auction or seizure, down 5 percent from March and 23 percent from a year earlier, RealtyTrac said. It was the lowest tally since February 2007, the Irvine, California-based data seller said in a report. One in 905 households got a filing.
Borrowing costs close to historic lows and an improving labor market have combined to aid the housing market, boosting prices and allowing distressed homeowners to rework loans or sell property for less than the amount owed, known as a short sale. U.S. home prices rose 10.5 percent in March from a year earlier, data provider CoreLogic said earlier this week.
“National trends are being driven by states that were hard-hit early on, and are now showing solid, consistent decreases” in foreclosures, Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, said in a telephone interview.
Auctions dropped in non-judicial states, where a judge’s approval isn’t needed for property seizures, declining 7 percent from the previous month and 43 percent from a year earlier.
In states with a judicial process, where foreclosures had been delayed, “the pig is moving through the python,” Blomquist said in the statement. Auctions in those states rose 22 percent from March, and 31 percent from a year ago, to the highest level in 30 months.
The jump is “evidence that lenders are serious about moving forward with completing the foreclosure process — either through repossession or sale to a third-party investor at public auction,” Blomquist said.
Throughout the country, first-time defaults fell to 70,133, down 4 percent from the previous month and 28 percent from a year earlier, according to RealtyTrac. Repossessions (HOMFREO) dropped to 34,997, down 20 percent from March and 32 percent from a year earlier. They fell to lowest level since July 2007.
Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate, with one in 360 households receiving a filing. Florida followed at one in 363, and Ohio was third at one in 427. Illinois ranked fourth at one in 501, and South Carolina was fifth at one in 590, RealtyTrac said. Akron, Ohio, had the nation’s highest metropolitan foreclosure rate, with one in 211 households receiving a filing and a 147 percent increase in foreclosure actions.
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