The U.S. continues to watch its foreclosure inventory slowly evaporate as fewer homes make it through the foreclosure process.

The country had approximately 1.2 million homes, or 3% of all properties with a mortgage, in its national foreclosure inventory in November, a sharp 18% drop from a year ago, CoreLogic (CLGX) said.

Foreclosure completions also are on the downward spiral, with 55,000 foreclosures completed in November, down 23% from 72,000 a year earlier. From October to November, foreclosures fell 6%, continuing an ongoing trend of fewer finalized foreclosures.     

Compared to pre-crisis times when the national average hit 21,000 foreclosures per month, the U.S. is far from normal foreclosure trends, but the cycling of distressed properties into alternative disposition methods and loan work-out plans continues to aid the housing market.

“The pace of completed foreclosures has significantly improved over a year ago as short sales gain popularity as a disposition method,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic.

“Additionally, the inventory of foreclosed properties continues to decline while the housing market demonstrates an ongoing ability to absorb the distressed sales that result from completed foreclosures.”

The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures for the 12-month period ending in November included California (102,000 foreclosures); Michigan (75,000); Texas (58,000); and Georgia (52,000). These states account for 50% of all completed foreclosures nationwide.

The five states with the lowest number of completed foreclosures included South Dakota (only 10 foreclosures); the District of Columbia (62); Hawaii (415); North Dakota (491); and Maine (597).

When looking at foreclosures as a percentage of all homes in a state, Florida (10.4%); New Jersey (7.3%); New York (5.1%); Nevada (4.7%); and Illinois (4.7%) maintained the highest foreclosure inventory levels. 

What those states share in common is the judicial foreclosure classification, which carries default timelines that last well over a year.

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