Foreclosure filings hit a seven-year low in February 2014, according to RealtyTrac’s monthly foreclosure report.
There were 112,498 foreclosure filings in February, a 10% decrease from January and a 27% drop from the same time in 2013.
This level of foreclosure filings, which includes default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, is the lowest monthly total since December 2006.
“Cold weather and a short month certainly contributed to a seasonal drop in foreclosure activity in February, but the reality is that new activity is no longer the biggest threat to the housing market when it comes to foreclosures,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.
Blomquist says the biggest threat from foreclosures going forward is properties that have been lingering in the foreclosure process for years, many of them vacant with neither the distressed homeowner nor the foreclosing lender taking responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of the home.
“One in every five homes in the foreclosure process nationwide have been vacated by the distressed homeowner, but it is closer to one in three foreclosures in some cities,” Blomquist said. “These properties drag down home values in the surrounding neighborhood and contribute to a climate of uncertainty and low inventory in local housing markets.”
Now the bad news.
Scheduled foreclosure auctions increased from a year ago in 19 states, including Oregon which jumped an alarming 389%, Utah which was up 145%, Connecticut which jumped 141%, New Jersey up 70%, and Maryland, up a mere 36%.
States with the highest foreclosure rates in February were Florida, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey and Illinois.
February foreclosure starts increased from a year ago in 14 states, including New Jersey, where foreclosure starts increased 126% from a year ago, boosting the state’s foreclosure rate to fourth highest in the nation — its highest foreclosure rate ranking since October 2005.
In the foreclosure pipeline, nationwide 47,715 properties were scheduled for a future foreclosure auction in February, a 15% decline from January and a 21% year-over-year decline.
Regarding zombie foreclosures, 152,033 distressed homeowners in the first quarter of 2014 vacated properties in the foreclosure process, representing 21% of all properties in the foreclosure process. They were in the foreclosure process an average of 1,031 days.
Zombie foreclosures were flat compared to the last time RealtyTrac analyzed these properties, in the third quarter of 2013, but some states saw substantial increases, including Michigan, which climbed 27%, New Jersey, which climbed 24% and Nevada, which saw a 21% increase in zombies.
To see the largest 20 metro foreclosure rates click below.