Nationwide, millions of people got their finances under control last year and in doing so were able to get a better handle on their various loan obligations, including their mortgages.
As a consequence, the number of foreclosure filings observed nationwide throughout the course of 2012 declined to slightly less than 1.84 million, according to new data from the housing market tracking firm RealtyTrac. That was down 3 percent from the number observed at the end of 2011, and an additional 36 percent from the all-time peak of 2.9 million foreclosures in 2010. In all, one in every 72 houses across the country suffered at least one foreclosure filing last year (1.39 percent), but that was down from 1.45 percent the year before and 2.23 percent in 2010.
Much of the change was likely driven by what are known as judicial foreclosures, those a judge has to approve before they can continue, the report said. Of the 26 states that use this process, foreclosures ticked up in 20 of them. On the other hand, non-judicial foreclosures slipped in 19 of the 24 states that do not require a judge to sign off on such a filing. Meanwhile, the number of days necessary to complete a foreclosure expanded to 414 days in the fourth quarter of the year compared with 382 in the three-month period prior, and 348 on an annual basis.
“That could mean that although we are comfortably past the peak of the foreclosure problem nationally, 2013 is likely to be book-ended by two discrete jumps in foreclosure activity,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “We expect to see continued increases in judicial foreclosure states near the beginning of the year as lenders finish catching up with the backlogs in those states, and another set of increases in some non-judicial states near the end of the year as lenders adjust to the new laws and process some deferred foreclosures in those states.”
Meanwhile, during the first 10 months of 2012, median home prices rose in 25 states, and in doing so brought some 1.6 million homeowners back above water on their mortgages, the report said. It’s also believed that another 10.9 million homeowners – 26 percent of all of mortgage borrowers – are still underwater by at least 25 percent.
Price increases are expected to continue throughout 2013 and could potentially help millions more Americans get out from under negative equity, and perhaps begin to consider selling their homes.
Image: erix!, via Flickr