RealtyTrac: Foreclosure filings near 5-year low

Foreclosure filings fell to their lowest level since July 2007, driven by declines in foreclosure-burdened states like California, Arizona and Nevada.

Data firm RealtyTrac said 188,780 homes received a foreclosure filing — which includes default notices, scheduled foreclosure auctions and bank-owned properties — in April, dropping 5% from March and 14% from a year earlier.

Foreclosure activity dipped 67% in Nevada, 44% in Arizona and 30% in California from April 2011.

“Those three states, and several other nonjudicial foreclosure states like them, more efficiently processed foreclosures last year, resulting in fewer catch-up foreclosures this year,” RealtyTrac CEO Brandon Moore said in a news release.

Fewer homes are finding their way through the foreclosure process as short sales gain popularity, Moore said. Real estate owned properties, or bank repossessions, fell 7% from March and 26% from April 2011.

And in preliminary first-quarter sales data, RealtyTrac said short sales look set to outpace REO sales in 12 states, including California and Arizona.

But the overall U.S. decline in filings masked increases elsewhere across the country, Moore said. Florida and Illinois foreclosure filings rose roughly 26% from April 2011, as metro areas in those states saw huge increases. Miami and Tampa filings rose 38% and 59%, respectively, and Chicago registered a 26% increase.

In the 26 judicial foreclosure states, including Florida and Illinois, filings rose 15% from a year earlier, while nonjudicial states saw a 29% decline.

Foreclosure starts, either default notices or scheduled auctions, fell 4% from March and 2% from April 2011. Twenty-seven states recorded annual increases, including steep rises in New Jersey (180%) and Utah (179%).

Nevada reclaimed its unfortunate top foreclosure rate spot in April after it ended a 62-month streak in March. One in every 300 homes in the state received a foreclosure filing last month.

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