Foreclosure filings (default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions) were reported on 112,498 U.S. properties in February, which is down 10% from January and down 27% from February 2013, to the lowest monthly total since December 2006, according to RealtyTrac's U.S. Foreclosure Market Report.
As of the first quarter, a total of 152,033 properties in the foreclosure process (excluding bank-owned properties) were vacated by the distressed homeowner, representing 21% of all properties in the foreclosure process. These owner-vacated (zombie) foreclosures had been in the foreclosure process an average of 1,031 days.
‘Cold weather and a short month certainly contributed to a seasonal drop in foreclosure activity in February, but the reality is that new activity is no longer the biggest threat to the housing market when it comes to foreclosures,’ says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.
‘The biggest threat from foreclosures, going forward, is properties that have been lingering in the foreclosure process for years, many of them vacant with neither the distressed homeowner or the foreclosing lender taking responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of the home – or at the very least, facilitating a sale to a new homeowner more likely to perform needed upkeep and maintenance," he explains.
Owner-vacated foreclosures nationwide were flat compared to the last time RealtyTrac analyzed these properties (in the third quarter of 2013), but some states saw substantial increases, including Michigan (up 27% from September 2013), New Jersey (up 24%) and Nevada (up 21%).
States with the most owner-vacated foreclosures were Florida (with 36% of the national total), Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Ohio. States with the longest average time in foreclosure for owner-vacated foreclosures included Arkansas, Hawaii, Florida, Nevada and New York.
Counter to the national trend, February foreclosure starts increased from a year ago in 14 states, including New Jersey, where foreclosure starts increased 126% from a year ago, boosting the state's foreclosure rate to fourth highest in the nation – its highest foreclosure rate ranking since October 2005.
There were a total of 30,307 U.S. bank repossessions (REO) in February, up less than 1% from January but still down 33% from February 2013.
Counter to the national trend, 15 states reported year-over-year increases in bank repossessions in February, including Connecticut (up 162%), New York (up 108%), Maryland (up 98%), New Jersey (up 90%) and Oregon (up 70%).
States with the highest foreclosure rates in February were Florida, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey and Illinois.
The complete report can be found here.