|Foreclosure activity fell to a six-year low in 2013 even as filings turned higher in December. It took longer to complete a foreclosure last year than any of the prior five years. Nearly one-in-five repossessions during 2013 were in Florida.
Last month, 115,342 foreclosure filings -- default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions -- were made against U.S. houses.
Activity moved up from the number reported for the previous month, when foreclosure filings were made on 113,454 residential properties.
But mortgage servicers significantly improved on their performance from the same month the previous year, when 162,511 were hit with a filing.
The statistics were reported Thursday by RealtyTrac.
For all of last year, foreclosure filings were made on 1,361,795 U.S. properties, a huge improvement from 2012, when 1,836,634 properties faced foreclosure.
It was the lowest annual total since 2007, when 1.3 million properties were hit with a foreclosure filing.
Foreclosure activity has fallen by more than half from the 2010 peak of 2.9 million filings.
With 269,649 filings during 2013, Florida had the most of any state.
California's 136,042 filings followed, then 99.666 in Illinois, 78,488 in Ohio and 56,693 in Georgia.
With only 110 filings, North Dakota had the fewest foreclosures of any state.
RealtyTrac reported that 747,728 U.S. foreclosures were initiated last year.
As of the end of last month, more than 1.2 million U.S. properties were in some stage of foreclosure. The foreclosure inventory dropped 19 percent from the end of the previous year.
The foreclosure rate made a slight improvement last month to one filing for every 1,136 housing units from a filing on each 1,155 properties a month earlier. A year earlier, the rate was much worse at one-in-810.
There was one foreclosure filed for each 96 housing units during the entire year of 2013. The foreclosure rate improved substantially from one filing made for each 72 homes the prior year.
Last year's rate was worst in Florida, where one-in-33 housing units had a filing. The Sunshine State was home to eight of the worst 10 metropolitan statistical areas. The Miami MSA was No. 1 with a rate of one-in-25.
Next was Nevada, where a filing was made on every 46 residential properties. After that was one-in-53 in Illinois, one-in-64 in Maryland and one-in-65 in Ohio.
North Dakota had last year's best foreclosure rate, with just one filing made for each 2,868 housing units.
RealtyTrac's data indicated that 31,621 U.S. foreclosures were completed in December, more than the 30,461 repossessions in November.
In December 2012, real-estate-owned filings numbered 53,054.
Servicers completed 462,970 foreclosures from Jan. 1, through Dec. 31. The annual total retreated from 665,140 in 2012.
With 88,437 REO filings, Florida had more repossessions last year than any of its counterparts.
No. 2 California had 36,877 foreclosures completed in 2013. Ohio's 34,224 followed, then Illinois' 29,727 and Georgia's 25,453.
Only 67 foreclosures were completed last year in North Dakota -- the fewest of any state.
The combined REO inventory for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Department of Housing and Urban Development was 41 percent of all REOs.
Bank of America's inventory share was 11 percent, followed by Wells Fargo's 11 percent share and Chase's 8 percent share.
During just the fourth quarter, it took 564 days to complete the average U.S. foreclosure. It was the longest time frame since RealtyTrac began tracking the numbers in 2007.
New York's 1,029 days was the longest of any state in the fourth quarter. After that was New Jersey's 999 days, then Florida's 944 days, Hawaii's 835 days and Illinois' 815 days.
At just 175 days, foreclosures took the shortest amount of time to complete in Texas.