|Despite a nice improvement in the number of foreclosure filings and the foreclosure rate, more foreclosures were completed last month than in August. Although many states have seen improving foreclosure trends, Florida judges who continue to block mortgage servicers' attempts to liquidate distressed assets are contributing to deepening troubles in the Sunshine State. Meanwhile, the amount of time needed to complete a U.S. foreclosure is on the rise.
The number of U.S. residential properties that faced a foreclosure filing during September was 180,427. That was the best month since July 2007, when 179,599 foreclosures were filed.
Foreclosures eased from August, when 193,508 homes were hit with a filing. Filings -- including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions -- plummeted from September 2011's total of 214,855.
Including the previously released first-half 2012 data and today's third-quarter numbers from RealtyTrac, year-to-date filings amounted to 1,577,377 -- though the actual number is lower since some properties that faced a filing in the third quarter were also hit with a filing in the first half.
More California properties faced a foreclosure in September than any other state: 37,917. But Golden State foreclosures fell from 40,200 a month earlier.
No. 2 Florida saw filings climb to 28,235 from August's 27,422.
Illinois was third with 14,087 foreclosures, then 9,386 in Ohio and 7,741 in Michigan.
"Third quarter foreclosure activity increased on a year-over-year basis in 14 out of the 26 states with a primarily judicial foreclosure process, including New Jersey (130 percent increase), New York (53 percent increase), Indiana (36 percent increase), Pennsylvania (35 percent increase), Connecticut (34 percent increase), Illinois (31 percent increase), Maryland (28 percent increase), South Carolina (16 percent increase), North Carolina (14 percent increase), and Florida (14 percent increase)," RealtyTrac said.
Just three North Dakota properties faced a foreclosure filing, fewer than any other state.
The September U.S. foreclosure rate worked out to one filing for each 730 housing units. The rate improved from one-in-681 and was also better than one-in-605 during the same month last year.
Florida leapt past last month's No. 1 and No. 2 to come in with the worst foreclosure rate in the nation: one filing for each 318 properties. Florida's rate deteriorated from one-in-328 the prior month.
Part of Florida's problem is its judicial system, with judges frequently ruling in favor of delinquent borrowers who use every tactic in the book to forestall the inevitable.
California moved from third place in August to second place with a one-in-361 rate, improving from one-in-340 a month earlier.
Illinois shed its worst-state ranking a month earlier to finish September with a one-in-376 rate. After that was one-in-398 in Arizona and one-in-496 in Nevada.
With only one filing for each 105,833 housing units, the foreclosure rate was lowest in North Dakota.
One of the most important metrics is the number of completed foreclosures, which inched up to 53,569 for the country as a whole from 52,380 in August. Real-estate-owned filings were much lower, however, than 65,047 in September 2011.
From Jan. 1 through Sept. 30, mortgage servicers completed 499,474 foreclosures -- putting the country on track to come in well below the 1.1 million repossessions in 2011.
California again dominated REO filings with 8,357 completed foreclosures last month -- worse than 7,907 in August.
Florida, meanwhile, saw repossessions climb to 6,633 from 5,696.
No. 3 Michigan had 3,942 foreclosures completed, Illinois had 3,600 and No. 5 Arizona had 3,361.
The fewest REO filings were in North Dakota: two.
It took a "record 382 days" to foreclose on U.S. properties during the third quarter, lengthening from 378 days in the second quarter and 336 days in the same period last year.
"It was the highest average number of days to foreclose going back to the first quarter of 2007," the report stated.
States like Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington -- where recent legislation and court rulings have substantially extended the foreclosure process -- helped drive the national time frame higher.