|The number of new foreclosure filings fell below 200,000 for only the second time in more than four years. California was responsible for more than half of the latest improvement. Meanwhile, Boston saw a major increase in new filings.
Residential loan servicers filed foreclosure notices on 188,780 properties during April. Filings include default notices, scheduled auctions and repossessions.
The last time foreclosures were this low was in July 2007, when 179,599 U.S. properties were hit with a filing.
A month earlier, filings were made on 198,853 properties, according to RealtyTrac, which provided the report based on data from 2,200 U.S. counties.
The total was 219,258 a year earlier.
Year-to-date foreclosure filings totaled 761,708, though some properties might have faced filings in more than one month.
More than half of last month's improvement was out of California, where the total tumbled to 39,008 from March's 45,122. Still, the Golden State had more foreclosures than any other state.
"Rising foreclosure activity in many state and local markets in April was masked at the national level by sizable decreases in hard-hit foreclosure states like California, Arizona and Nevada," RealtyTrac Chief Executive Officer Brandon Moore said in the report. "Those three states, and several other non-judicial foreclosure states like them, more efficiently processed foreclosures last year, resulting in fewer catch-up foreclosures this year."
Moore abandoned his usual warnings that suggest a foreclosure tsunami is ahead.
No. 2 Florida improved to 24,712 foreclosures from 26,758.
Illinois was a distant third with 12,661 foreclosures, then 10,269 in Georgia and 9,768 in Ohio.
North Dakota landed in last place with just eight properties that were hit with a filing in April.
Among the 20 biggest metropolitan statistical areas, Phoenix saw a 23 percent decline from March, the biggest improvement of any city.
At the other end of the spectrum was Boston, where filings skyrocketed 47 percent.
One foreclosure was filed in April for each 698 U.S. housing units. The rate was better than one-in-662 the prior month and one-in-593 in the same month the prior year.
With a foreclosure filed on each 300 housing units, Nevada grabbed the title of the state with the worst foreclosure rate.
At one-in-351, California had the second-worst rate -- though the rate improved from one-in-303 a month earlier. The Golden State was home to the Riverside-San Bernardino MSA, where the one-in-213 foreclosure rate was the worst among major MSAs.
The next-worst state was Florida, with a one-in-364 rate, then Arizona's one-in-377 rate and Georgia's one-in-398 rate. The trio was home to the MSAs with the next-worst rates: Miami's one-in-273, Atlanta's one-in-298 and Phoenix's one-in-313. Tampa's one-in-315 rate was the fifth-worst of any area.
North Dakota had just one foreclosure filed on each 39,687 housing units -- the most favorable rate in the nation.
Moving on to real-estate-owned filings, last month saw 51,415 foreclosures completed. REO filings dropped from 55,075 in March and 69,532 in April 2011.
"More distressed loans are being diverted into short sales rather than becoming completed foreclosures," Moore commented.
From Jan. 1 through April 30, REO filings totaled 231,489.
Foreclosures were completed on 6,579 California properties in April, mostly unchanged from the previous month but still the highest of any state.
Florida followed with 5,817 REO filings, better than 7,471 repossessions in March.
Georgia was third with 4,172 completed foreclosures, then Michigan's 3,997 and Texas' 3,062.