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What We're Reading: The Good Friday edition
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Foreclosure filings down 17% in January as reviews continue: RealtyTrac

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Lenders slowed by procedural reviews conducted foreclosure filings on 261,333 properties in January, a 17% drop from a year ago, according to RealtyTrac. The company monitors default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions (REO) in counties across the U.S. In 2010, foreclosures reached record highs, but RealtyTrac forecasted this year's filings to be even higher once the reviews are completed. January marked the third straight month of fewer than 300,000 properties receiving a filing, following 20 straight months of higher numbers. "Unfortunately this is less a sign of a robust housing recovery and more a sign that lenders have become bogged down in reviewing procedures, resubmitting paperwork and formulating legal arguments related to accusations of improper foreclosure processing," RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio said. Late in 2010, major servicers began reviews of documentation and processes when employees were found to be misfiling affidavits in several states. While some lenders said they have completed their reviews, others continue to lag, including Bank of America (BAC) the nation's largest servicer, which said it will complete its review sometime in the first quarter of 2011. Lenders repossessed 78,133 properties in January, down 11% from a year ago, but up 12% from the previous month, a sign that operations are ramping up again. The 23 states that force lenders to foreclosures through the judicial process had repossessions drop 16% from a year ago, compared to just a 9% drop in nonjudicial states. One in 93 properties received a foreclosure filing in Nevada, the highest foreclosure rate in the country for more than two years. Repossessions there increased 16% from the previous month. In Arizona, one in 175 properties received a filing for the second highest rate, followed by California, where one in 200 properties received a filing. Foreclosure filings in Massachusetts fell 65% from a year ago, the largest decrease of any state. There, many servicers are checking procedures following a ruling in the state's Supreme Court in the Ibanez case, which voided foreclosure from two lenders when they could not prove to the satisfaction of the court that they had a right to foreclose. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter: @JonAPrior

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