The U.S. recorded 442,117 foreclosure filings in the first quarter of 2013, a steep 23% drop from a year ago and the lowest level reached since 2007, real estate data firm RealtyTrac said in a new report.  

Foreclosure filings also fell 1% from February to March, with 152,000 filings reported last month. 

Despite these drops, foreclosure trends remained solidly local with judicial foreclosure states still more likely to see foreclosure completions stalled by long drawn-out default timelines, while non-judicial foreclosure states pushed through distressed properties at a faster pace. 

New laws designed to prevent foreclosures on the local level also played a role in expanding default timelines, even in nonjudicial or quasi-judicial foreclosure states.

RealtyTrac (in the graph below) attempts to show this phenomenon by documenting foreclosure timelines in three jurisdictions – Oregon, Nevada and Washington. The chart shows foreclosure timelines right before and after major foreclosure prevention legislation took effect in those states.

Judging by the charts, default timelines even in non-judicial states rose dramatically after the introduction of significant foreclosure laws.

“Although the overall national foreclosure trend continues to head lower, late-blooming foreclosures are bolting higher in some local markets where aggressive foreclosure prevention efforts in previous years are wearing off,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

“Meanwhile, more recent foreclosure prevention efforts in other states have drastically increased the average time to foreclose, which could result in a similar outbreak of delayed foreclosures down the road in those states.”

RealtyTrac also noted foreclosure starts increased 2% from February to March, reaching a total of 73,113 starts last month.

Twenty-three states saw upticks in foreclosure starts last month, while 12 states — including New York and Washington — experienced rising starts year-over-year. In fact, starts grew 200% and 154% annually in New York and Washington, respectively.

Overall, lenders repossessed 43,597 properties in March 2013, the lowest retrieval rate since September 2007.

And Florida, once again, posted the highest foreclosure rate for Q1, followed by Nevada and Illinois.

In just Q1, 85,671 Florida properties faced a foreclosure filing, representing a foreclosure rate of one out of every 104 housing units.

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