There were a total of 597,589 U.S. properties with foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — in the first half of 2015, down 13% from the previous six months and down 3% from the same time period in 2014, according to RealtyTrac.

A total of 304,439 U.S. properties started the foreclosure process in the first half of the year, down 4% from a year ago and 18% below foreclosure starts in the first half of 2006 before the housing price bubble burst in August 2006. First-half foreclosure starts 2015 were at their lowest level in any year since RealtyTrac began tracking in 2006 — a 10-year low. 

“U.S. foreclosure starts have not only returned to pre-housing crisis levels, they have fallen well below those pre-crisis levels and are still searching for a floor, down 4% from a year ago,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “Loans originated in the last five years continue to perform better than historic norms, with tighter lending standards and more cautious borrower behavior acting as important guardrails for the real estate boom of the past three years.”

There were 19 states where foreclosure starts in the first half of 2015 were at or below their pre-crisis levels of 2006, including California, Florida, Arizona, Georgia and Illinois.

 “The reduction of foreclosures is adding to the limited inventory in the market as a whole and increased appreciation,” said Greg Smith, owner/broker at RE/MAX Alliance, covering the Denver market in Colorado, where foreclosure starts in the first half of 2015 were less than half the number of foreclosure starts in the first half of 2006. “Today the decline in foreclosures, combined with limited new construction, nominal resale inventory, and delayed entry of millennials in to the buying cycle is contributing to a very robust real estate market for the foreseeable future.”

A total of 209,281 U.S. properties were repossessed by lenders in first half of 2015, up 20% from a year ago and 37% above the number of bank repossessions in the first half of 2006 before the housing bubble burst.

“Less-disciplined loans originated during the last housing boom continue to account for the majority of distress still hanging over the housing market, with two-thirds of all loans in foreclosure on loans originated between 2004 and 2008,” Blomquist noted. “An increasing number of these failed bubble-era loans finally exited the foreclosure process in the first half of 2015, resulting in accelerating bank repossessions that are still well above pre-crisis levels along with record-long average foreclosure timelines for properties foreclosed in the second quarter.”

First-half bank repossessions in 2015 were above 2006 levels in 35 states, including California, Florida, Arizona, Illinois and Nevada.

“The workout of distressed properties continues to dwindle back toward normal market ratios.  Although it’s been a long recovery, the bad loans and bank-owned properties are winding their way through the long process,” said Mark Hughes, chief operating officer with First Team Real Estate, covering the Southern California market. “Certainly less inventory in an already low inventory environment will gas the fast-paced transaction flow even more.”

“There is still a tail left in the liquidation of our distressed properties in Florida due to our ponderous judicial system,” said Mike Pappas, CEO and president of Keyes Company, covering the South Florida market. “However, our current robust market has muted the remnant REO noise.”

Florida foreclosure activity in the first half of 2015 decreased 22% from a year ago, but the state still posted the nation’s highest foreclosure rate: 1.06% of housing units (one in every 95) with a foreclosure filing during the six-month period.

New Jersey foreclosure activity in the first half of 2015 increased 24% from a year ago, boosting the state’s foreclosure rate to second highest nationwide: 0.92% of housing units (one in every 109) with a foreclosure filing during the six-month period.

Maryland’s foreclosure rate was almost identical to the New Jersey foreclosure rate, but was slightly lower and ranked No. 3 highest among the states despite a 1% year-over-year decrease in foreclosure activity.

Nevada foreclosure activity in the first half of 2015 increased 10% from a year ago, and the state’s foreclosure rate — 0.79% of housing units (one in every 126) with a foreclosure filing  — ranked fourth highest among the states, while the Illinois foreclosure rate — 0.74% of housing units (one in every 135) with a foreclosure filing — ranked fifth highest despite a 9% year-over-year decrease in foreclosure activity in the first six months of 2015.

Other states with foreclosure rates ranking among the top 10 highest in the first half of 2015 were Delaware (0.61% of housing units with a foreclosure filing), Ohio (0.58%), Indiana (0.54%), South Carolina (0.54%), and Tennessee* (0.53%).

“As foreclosures fall by double digits in many counties across Ohio in 2015 compared to a year ago, demand remains high for available housing inventory,” said Michael Mahon, president at HER Realtors, covering the Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus markets in Ohio, where the state’s top 10 foreclosure rate ranking came despite a 16% year-over-year decrease in first half foreclosure activity. “Sold sales activity for the second quarter of 2015 denotes a continued seller’s market, with rising prices and multiple offers driving demand across much of the state.”

With 1.70% of housing units (one in every 59) with a foreclosure filing in the first half of 2015, Atlantic City, New Jersey, posted the nation’s highest foreclosure rate among metropolitan statistical areas with a population of 200,000 or more.

Eight Florida cities posted first-half foreclosure rates among the 10 highest: Tampa at No. 2 (1.22% of housing units with a foreclosure filing); Lakeland at No. 3 (1.21%); Jacksonville at No. 4 (1.20%); Ocala at No. 5 (1.18%); Miami at No. 6 (1.15%); Orlando at No. 8 (1.07%); Deltona-Daytona-Beach-Ormond Beach at No. 9 (1.05%); and Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin at No. 10 (0.97%).

Rockford, Illinois posted the nation’s seventh highest metro foreclosure rate: 1.14% of housing units (one in every 87) with a foreclosure filing in the first six months of 2015.

Eight of the nation’s 20 largest metro areas posted a year-over-year increase in foreclosure activity in the first half of 2015 compared to a year ago: Boston (up 29%), St. Louis (up 25%), New York (up 24%), Houston (up 19%), Dallas (up 19%), Detroit (up 13%), Philadelphia (up 8%), and Baltimore (up 5%).

Among the nation’s 20 largest metro areas, those posting the biggest decreases in foreclosure activity in the first half of 2015 compared to a year ago were Miami (down 30%), Riverside-San Bernardino in Southern California (down 15%), Seattle (down 14%), Los Angeles (down 14%), and Phoenix (down 14%).

“The drop in foreclosures in the Seattle area signifies that housing recovery in our market is firmly in place,” said Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist at Windermere Real Estate, covering the Seattle market. “Fewer distressed listings also functions to push up average home prices in a market that is woefully low on inventory.” 

States with the biggest increase in foreclosure activity in the first half of the year compared to a year ago included Massachusetts (up 43%), New York (up 31%), New Jersey (up 24%), Texas (up 21%), and Michigan (up 17%). 

Foreclosures completed in the second quarter of 2015 took an average of 629 days from the first public notice of foreclosure to complete the foreclosure process, the longest average time to foreclose since RealtyTrac began tracking in the first quarter of 2007. 

States with the longest foreclosure timelines were New Jersey (1,206), Hawaii (1,060), Montana (1,028), New York (1,000), and Florida (989).

States with the shortest foreclosure timelines were South Dakota (177), North Carolina (198), Virginia (229), Wyoming (242), and Alabama (244).

There were a total of 117,055 U.S. properties with foreclosure filings in June, down 8% from a 19-month high in May but still up 9% from a year ago — the fourth consecutive month with a year-over-year increase.

A total of 49,105 U.S. properties started the foreclosure process for the first time in June, down 4% from the previous month but up 4% from a year ago. Despite the year-over-year increase, June foreclosure starts were still below their pre-crisis average of 52,000 a month in 2005 and 2006.

States with the biggest increase in foreclosure starts in June compared to a year ago included Massachusetts (up 141%), Colorado (up 83%), New York (up 45%), Virginia (up 41%), Texas (up 37%), Nevada (up 28%), Indiana (up 21%), Missouri (up 21%), and New Jersey (up 19%).

Lenders repossessed 36,503 U.S. properties in June, down 19% from the previous month but still up 36% from a year ago — the fourth consecutive month with a year-over-year increase in REOs and above the pre-crisis average of 23,000 a month in 2005 and 2006.

States with the biggest increase in REOs in June compared to a year ago included New Jersey (up 275%), Oregon (up 198%), New York (up 142%), Massachusetts (up 109%), Texas (up 84%), Nevada (up 78%), and Michigan (up 64%).