Government agencies shed their inventory of repossessed homes by more than 18% over the past year, according to an analysis of their financial reports.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Department of Housing and Urban Development combined to own 202,764 REO properties needed to be resold as of June 30, down from nearly 250,000 one year ago.
Fannie holds the most. The government-sponsored enterprise reported an inventory of 109,266 REO as the end of the second quarter, down from more than 135,00 homes held last year, according to its financial filing Wednesday. In the second quarter, it sold nearly 5,000 more foreclosed homes than it acquired, about the same ratio from one year ago.
Freddie Mac holds 53,282 properties, down from roughly 61,000, according to its filing earlier in the week. It sold about 6,000 more REO than it acquired during the second quarter.
The inventory of REO held by HUD – previously backing mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration – declined 24% over the past year to 40,216 homes. HUD sold less than 1,000 REO than it acquired in June alone, according to its monthly financial report. However, foreclosures at the FHA are going up.
These properties are part of the housing inventory either already foreclosed or on the verge of repossession. Banking and credit ratings agency analysts all show this backlog is on the decline.
Mortgage servicers are still adjusting to new guidelines after slowing the foreclosure process nearly two years ago. The effect is still placing an artificial cap on repossessions.
"We believe the volume of our single-family REO acquisitions during 2Q 2012 was less than it otherwise would have been," Freddie said in an investment supplement this week.
Still, the GSE said the average time it takes to unload one of these properties is stabilizing. Freddie had to hold the foreclosed homes it sold in the second quarter an average of 199 days for sale, down from an average of 201 days in the previous three months.
The vacancy rate on homes for sale in the U.S. dipped to 2.1% in 2012, the lowest since the second quarter of 2006, according to the Census Bureau.
Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft said in a report released Wednesday the number of excess vacant homes for sale in the U.S. dropped to roughly 300,000 this year from a high of nearly 1 million in 2008.
"Less excess vacant stock plus fewer REOs enhances market values. Recent data continues to suggest that the bottom in the U.S. house-value cycle may have been reached," Nothaft said.