Foreclosure filings fell last month to the lowest level in more than four years as annual activity also improved. But completed foreclosures were worse on both a monthly and annual basis. While it took nearly a year for the average U.S. foreclosure to complete, one state had an average timeline of nearly three years.
Foreclosures were filed on 205,024 U.S. properties in December. It was the fewest foreclosures filed since November 2007.
The statistics were released Thursday by RealtyTrac. The figures were based on data collected from more than 2,200 U.S. counties that account for more than 90 percent of the country’s population.
During all of last year, 1,887,777 properties were hit with a foreclosure, a huge improvement from the 2,871,891 properties in 2010 that had a filing.
California maintained its standing last month as the state with the most foreclosures: 52,808. But December’s activity in the Golden State reversed an increase in November, when 63,689 properties in California received a filing.
No. 2 was Florida. Filings in the state slipped to 24,576 from the prior month’s 24,739.
Michigan’s 13,128 foreclosures followed, then 12,639 in Illinois and 10,657 in Georgia.
At the bottom of the list was North Dakota’s 1 filing.
The national foreclosure rate last month was one filing for each 634 properties, an improvement from November’s one-in-579 rate. The rate was also better than one-in-501 for December 2010.
On a full-year basis, one filing was made for each 69 U.S. housing units. That worked out to a rate of 1.45 percent.
The pace was worse in 2010, when a filing was made on each 45 units — leaving the rate at 2.23 percent.
“The lack of clarity regarding many of the documentation and legal issues plaguing the foreclosure industry means that we are continuing to see a highly dysfunctional foreclosure process that is inefficiently dealing with delinquent mortgages — particularly in states with a judicial foreclosure process,” RealtyTrac Chief Executive Officer Brandon Moore said in the report. “There were strong signs in the second half of 2011 that lenders are finally beginning to push through some of the delayed foreclosures in select local markets.”
Moore, who has apparently replaced RealtyTrac co-founder James Saccacio as CEO, predicts that the trend will continue this year
During December, Nevada had a filing on every 177 housing units, slightly improved from one-in-175 a month earlier but the worst rate of any state. In just Las Vegas, the rate was one-in-14 — the worst of any metropolitan statistical area.
California was next with a one-in-254 rate, followed by Michigan’s one-in-346 rate, Arizona’s one filing for each 357 homes and Florida’s rate of one-in-360.
Ten of the 20 MSAs with the worst foreclosure rates during all of last year were in California.
North Dakota had a rate of one foreclosure filed on each 316,435 housing units, the best of any state.
Moving on to real-estate-owned filings, December saw 61,774 U.S. REOs, climbing from 56,124 the previous month. Repossessions were lower, however, than 69,874 during the same month in 2010.
Full-year REO filings amounted to 1,070,603. The previous year, 1,050,545 U.S. foreclosures were completed.
With 10,128 REOs, California saw more repossessions last month than any other state as completed foreclosures ascended from November’s 8,283.
Florida faced 7,360 REO filings in December, worse than 7,134 in November.
After that were 4,330 completed foreclosures in Georgia, 3,888 in Texas and 3,858 in Michigan.
Based on fourth-quarter data, U.S. foreclosures took an average of 348 days to complete, lengthening from 336 days three months earlier and 305 days a year earlier.
New York’s 1,019 average days to foreclose was the worst of any state.
At the other end of the spectrum was Texas, where it took just 90 days from start to finish.