The increased usage of loan modifications, short sales and aid supplied through the national mortgage servicing settlement may have reduced the number of foreclosures and delinquencies recorded in the first quarter, according to a report released Tuesday by CoreLogic (CLGX).

In the first quarter of 2012, the nation had 198,000 completed foreclosures, compared to 232,000 in the first quarter of 2011.

The Santa Ana, Calif.-based real estate analytics firm said there were 69,000 completed foreclosures in March, compared to 85,000 in March 2011 and 66,000  in February 2012.

As of March 2012, approximately 1.4 million — or 3.4% of all homes with a mortgage — were in the national foreclosure inventory.

The number of borrowers who are late on their payments also eased up in March.  

"The overall delinquency level was unchanged in March, remaining at its lowest point since July 2009," said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. "Nonjudicial foreclosure markets like Nevada, Arizona and California are experiencing significant improvements in their shares of delinquent borrowers. Some judicial foreclosure states are also improving, like Florida, but not to the extent of nonjudicial markets."

The number of borrowers who are 90 or more days late on mortgage payments declined to 7% in March from 7.5% a year earlier and remained unchanged from 7% in February of 2012.

The inventory of REO assets held by servicers rose at a slower pace than the pace of REO sales, which is good news if inventory clearings continue to outpace foreclosures.  

"Compared to a year ago, the number of completed foreclosures has slowed," said Anand Nallathambi, chief executive officer of CoreLogic.

"Since the foreclosure inventory is also coming down, this suggests that loan modifications, short sales (and) deeds-in-lieu are increasingly being used as an alternative to foreclosures to clear distressed assets in our communities. This is what was envisioned with the recent national foreclosure settlement, and can often be a better outcome for both borrowers and investors."