Foreclosure activity dipped nationwide in 2011 as completed foreclosures fell 24% to 830,000 from 1.1 million a year earlier, according to a report from CoreLogic (CLGX).
December foreclosures also declined year-over-year to 55,000 from 67,000.
The foreclosure decline comes in the context of litigation and regulation regarding robo-signing, including an expected settlement between states and the nation's five largest banks over mortgage-servicing practices.
The number of mortgages 90-days-or-more delinquent, however, fell to 7.3% from 7.8% a year earlier, but rose from 7.2% in November.
Foreclosure inventory saw a similar decline by 8.4% from December 2010. Houses in the foreclosure process totaled 1.4 million in December 2011, making up 3.4% of all homes with outstanding loans.
Real estate owned sales also outpaced completed foreclosures in December as the "distressed-clearing ratio" increased to 1.03 from 0.94 in November.
"While foreclosure filings are being curtailed by a variety of judicial and regulatory constraints, mortgage servicers are completing REO sales faster than they are completing foreclosures," CoreLogic chief economist Mark Fleming said. “This is the first time in a year that REO sales have outpaced completed foreclosures, and part of the reason for the decrease in the foreclosure inventory.”
Florida led states by far in foreclosure inventory as a percentage of all mortgages at 11.9% in December, though that's down 0.1% from a year earlier. New Jersey trailed with 6.4%, followed by Illinois at 5.4%, Nevada at 5.3% and New York at 4.6%.
The Sunshine State also topped others with its 17.4% 90-day-plus delinquency rate, driven by 18.3% and 17% rates in Orlando and Tampa, Fla., respectively. Nevada and New Jersey followed at 13.4% and 10.6%.
About 3.2 million foreclosures have closed since the onset of the financial crisis in September 2008, according to CoreLogic. The data firm covers about 85% of all U.S. foreclosure data.