Foreclosures Plunge 27%
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Is our long national foreclosure nightmare ending?
The number of foreclosure notices filed in February dropped 14% compared with a month earlier and 27% compared with a year earlier, according to RealtyTrac.
That was the biggest year-over-year decline the company has ever recorded. But the improvement may be exaggerated, according to RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio, who traced some of the decline to the fallout over robo-signing issues.
"Allegations of improper foreclosure processing continued to dog the mortgage servicing industry and disrupt court dockets," he said. "The industry is in the midst of a major overhaul that has severely restricted its capacity to process foreclosures."
Another contributing factor was the harsh winter weather that covered much of the country during the month. That delayed some of the paperwork processing and the serving of notices of default, notices of auction sales and other filings.
There were still more than 225,000 filings during the month, or one for every 577 homes. The banks repossessed 64,643 homes from delinquent borrowers, down significantly from the peak of about 102,000 last September.
The foreclosure fall flew in the face of other housing market reports that made it clear that housing is far from being out of the woods. S&P/Case-Shiller reported that prices are going down, and Zillow, the real estate website, said nearly 30% of borrowers with mortgages owe more than their homes are worth.
Looking to the future, the 50 state attorney generals seem to be making progress in their pursuit of a financial settlement with the banks over the robo-signing mess.
"We believe some of the servicers have slowed foreclosures as they wait to see how the settlement talks play out," said RealtyTrack spokesman Rick Sharga.
Three of the four "Sand States," Nevada (one filing for every 119 housing units), Arizona (one in 222) and California (one in 239) held their places at the top of the list of hardest hit states. Utah is the new number four, followed by Idaho, Georgia and Michigan.
Florida (one in 472), however, has slipped down the list to number eight. Filings dropped more than 65% year-over-year.
Part of the reason for Florida's improvement may have been the fall-out from the robo-signing issue. Foreclosures involve court hearings in the Sunshine State and many cases have been delayed by judges.
"Judicial foreclosure states recorded the most severe drops in foreclosures," said Sharga.
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