Completed foreclosure auction sales in Colorado declined 11.8% from year ago levels in the third quarter as rising home prices made short-sales and traditional property sales more viable for troubled borrowers.

The best escape hatch from foreclosure is the ability to sell one's home, and the Colorado Division of Housing released statistics Thursday showing the positive effect rising home prices have had on distressed homeowners in the state.

As prices rose and short-sales increased, Colorado's foreclosure auction sales fell 23.6% in the first nine-months of 2012 when compared to year-ago levels. For the first nine-months of the year, the state had 11,898 auction sales, down 11.8% from 15,565 a year earlier.

The third-quarter alone brought 4,138 completed foreclosure auction sales in Colorado, down from 4,627 a year earlier.

New foreclosure filings, meanwhile, fell 2.2% from year ago levels in September. During the third-quarter, the state reported 7,076 foreclosure filings, an 11.8% decline from 8,061 filings last year. 

"Completed foreclosures continue to head down at a steady pace," said Ryan McMaken, economist for the Colorado Division of Housing. "As home sales and home prices, rise, it's getting a little easier to avoid that final foreclosure sale through a short sale or even a conventional sale."

McMaken also attributes improving employment numbers to a decline in foreclosures since new jobs help troubled borrowers catch up on their mortgages. The Colorado counties with the best unemployment rates – Boulder and Larimer – experienced the steepest decline in foreclosures.