Foreclosures dipped to a 5-year low in September

Foreclosures in the US fell 7 percent last month, and 16 percent from the same time a year ago. But the drop in foreclosures is still sharply divided along state lines.

Damian Dovarganes/AP/File
This July 2012 file photo shows a single family home for sale in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. Foreclosures in the US fell to their lowest level in five years last month, but numbers rose in 19 states, inclusing Washington and Florida.

U.S. foreclosure filings dropped to a five-year low in September as fewer homes were on track to be seized by lenders.

It was the second-consecutive monthly decline in filings, although there remains a sharp divergence along state lines, according to a report Thursday by foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc.

On a national level, overall foreclosure filings last month — including home repossessions — fell 7 percent from August and 16 percent from September 2011. There were 180,427 foreclosure filings reported for September, the fewest since July 2007 in the midst the housing market bust.

The number of homes entering the foreclosure process, so-called foreclosure starts, fell to 87,066 in September, down 12 percent from August and 15 percent from a year earlier. It was the second-straight month of declines following three months of increases, Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac reported.

Foreclosure starts since peaked in April 2009 at around 203,000. But the current level is still well above the 34,000 starts recorded in May 2005, before the collapse of the housing market.

Overall foreclosure filings include notices of defaults on mortgages, scheduled auctions and repossessions. Foreclosure starts are either default notices or scheduled auctions, depending on the state's legal process.

Foreclosure starts declined in September on an annual basis in 31 states, with the biggest drops in California, Arizona, Michigan, Georgia and Texas, the new report showed. They are among the so-called non-judicial states, in which court approval isn't required for foreclosures.

Foreclosure activity has been declining in most non-judicial states because they didn't build a huge backlog of pending cases during an industrywide slowdown in foreclosures last year. The slowdown stemmed from widespread claims that lenders had been processing foreclosures without verifying documents.

Of the 19 states in which foreclosure starts rose in September, those with the largest annual increases were New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Washington state and Florida. Except for Washington, they are judicial states, where the courts must sign off on foreclosures.

The slower process in states where courts play a role in foreclosures contributed to a logjam of pending foreclosure cases that now has mortgage lenders catching up.

In Washington, a non-judicial state, lenders were catching up with foreclosure cases that had been delayed by a state law that took effect in July 2011 and allowed borrowers facing foreclosure to request mediation, RealtyTrac noted.

The pace of homes entering the foreclosure process is expected to slow gradually, barring another severe economic shock that would send the recovering housing market into a tailspin, experts say. But the decline in foreclosures is likely to continue playing out unevenly, in part because of the differing approaches to handling foreclosures from state to state.

Meanwhile, there were 53,569 completed foreclosures last month. That's up 2 percent from August but down 18 percent from September 2011.

Home repossessions nationwide have been down on an annual basis for the past 23 months. They rose in September in 12 states, including New Jersey, where they jumped 48 percent, and Indiana, where they increased 31 percent.

Between January and September, banks completed foreclosures on 505,585 homes. At that pace, the country is on track to end the year with about 675,000 completed foreclosures, down from around 800,000 last year, according to Daren Blomquist, a vice president at RealtyTrac.

Florida had the highest foreclosure rate in the country last month, a rate of one in every 117 households in some stage offoreclosure.

Arizona, California, Illinois and Georgia rounded out the top five states with the highest foreclosure rates in September.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.