US foreclosures fall to lowest quarterly level since 2007

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2014, 5:39am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2014, 6:03am

There are signs that the United States' housing market is getting back on its feet - aided by rising home prices, steady job growth and fewer troubled loans.

The improvement was reflected in data showing home foreclosure filings in the country fell 23 per cent last month compared with the year before.

This helped first-quarter foreclosure activity fall to its lowest level since the second quarter of 2007, said RealtyTrac, the housing and real estate data provider.

There were 117,485 US properties with default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions in March, it said. Overall foreclosure activity rose 4 per cent last month, compared with February. Last month's increase was driven by a 7 per cent rise in foreclosure starts - the initial public notice that starts the property seizure process.

However, more US homeowners are also keeping up with their mortgage payments; March was the 42nd month in a row in which US foreclosure activity fell compared with the year before.

"Now the foreclosure deluge has dried up, banks are turning their attention to properties that have been sitting in foreclosure limbo," said Daren Blomquist, a vice-president of RealtyTrac.

Banks are expected to focus more resources on dealing with nearly 500,000 already-foreclosed unsold homes, he said.

About 10 per cent of so-called bank-owned properties are now listed for sale and more than half are still occupied by the former homeowner or tenant.

A total of 28,840 US properties were repossessed by lenders in March - down 5 per cent from February - a 34 per cent fall compared with a year ago - to the lowest level since July 2007.

Last month there were 27,147 scheduled foreclosure auctions in judicial states - where a lender sues a defaulting borrower in a state court to auction the property and recoup unpaid debts - up 9 per cent from February and up 4 per cent from March last year.

There were 23,511 foreclosure auctions last month in non-judicial states - where a lender auctions the property without having to go to court - up 3 per cent from February, but down 27 per cent on March last year.