Report: Foreclosures down from pre-recession levels for sixth straight quarter

The number of properties in foreclosure in the United States were down from the previous year at the start of 2018 despite an increase from the previous quarter and sharp jumps in foreclosures in several markets, according to the real estate analytics company ATTOM Data Solutions.

In its U.S. Foreclosure Market Report for the first three months of the year, the company determined that there were 189,870 residences in the nation with foreclosure filings. This was up 4 percent from the fourth quarter of 2017, but a year-over-year drop of 19 percent.

The figure was also 32 percent below the pre-recession average, marking the sixth consecutive quarter where foreclosures have been less common than this period. ATTOM Data Solutions defines the pre-foreclosure period as stretching from the first quarter of 2006 to the third quarter of 2007, when the number of foreclosure filings averaged 278,912.

Foreclosure filings have decreased on an annual basis for 30 months in a row. In March, there were 74,341 properties in the U.S. in foreclosure proceedings. This was up 21 percent from an all-time low in February, but a year-over-year decline of 11 percent.

Forty-five percent of the foreclosures were on properties whose mortgages originated between 2004 and 2008, which ATTOM Data Solutions defined as the peak of the housing bubble. This share was down from 50 percent at the end of 2017 and 51 percent in the first quarter of that year.

"Less than half of all active foreclosures are now tied to loans originated during the last housing bubble, one of several data milestones in this report showing that the U.S. housing market has mostly cleared out the backlog of bad loans that triggered the housing and financial crisis nearly a decade ago," said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions. "Meanwhile we are beginning to see early signs that some post-recession loan vintages are defaulting at a slightly elevated rate, a sign that some loosening of lending standards has occurred in recent years. Consequently, foreclosure starts are trending higher compared to a year ago in an increasing number of local markets – some of which are a bit surprising given the overall strength of housing in those markets."

The initiation of foreclosure proceedings was also on the decline, with 92,703 foreclosure starts in the first quarter of the year. While this figure was up 8 percent from the previous quarter, it was down 10 percent from the previous year. The first quarter of 2018 was the 11th consecutive quarter with a year-over-year drop in foreclosure starts.

Of the 219 metropolitan statistical areas included in the report, foreclosures were up from the previous year in 82 markets – 37 percent of the total. In cities with a population of at least 1 million, foreclosures posted a year-over-year increase in 43 percent of markets.

Foreclosure starts in Indianapolis more than doubled from the first quarter of 2017, increasing 148 percent. Other areas with a significant jump in foreclosure starts included Minneapolis-St. Paul (up 64 percent), Louisville, Ky. (up 64 percent), and Austin, Texas (up 30 percent).

Foreclosure starts were down in all Connecticut metro areas included in the report. A total of 148 foreclosures were started in the Norwich-New London metro area, a year-over-year decline of 16.9 percent.

In the Hartford metro area, foreclosure starts fell 28.4 percent to 556. They were down 24 percent to 465 in the New Haven metro area and 25.3 percent to 423 in the Bridgeport metro area.

A total of 65,413 residences were repossessed by lenders in the first quarter of 2018. This was down 2 percent from the previous quarter and 28 percent from the previous year, the eighth consecutive month of year-over-year decreases in repossessions. The number of repossessions was down from the first quarter of 2017 in 46 states as well as the District of Columbia.

Twenty-two states and 56 percent of the metro areas in the report had foreclosure activity that was lower than pre-recession levels. In 28 states, foreclosure activity was above the pre-recession figures.

New Jersey had the highest foreclosure filing rate in the nation, with one in 233 housing units subject to a foreclosure. This was just over three times greater than the national rate of one foreclosure for every 706 housing units. Atlantic City and Trenton had the highest foreclosure rates among the local metro areas with one foreclosure for every 113 and 198 housing units, respectively.

Other states with high foreclosure rates included Delaware (one in 317 housing units), Maryland (one in 385 housing units), Illinois (one in 425 housing units), and South Carolina (one in 458 housing units).

While just 0.48 percent of all open mortgages were in foreclosure in the first quarter of 2018, foreclosure rates were greater among pre-recession loans. A total of 1.52 percent of mortgages originated in 2006 and 2007 were in foreclosure, along with 1.13 percent of those taken out in 2005, 1.03 percent of those started in 2008, and 0.85 percent of those originated in 2004.

Mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration were also more likely to be in foreclosure, with 0.96 percent of all open FHA-backed loans in foreclosure in the first quarter of 2018. FHA foreclosures were most common in mortgages started in 2014, with 1.28 percent of these loans in foreclosure.

The foreclosure process was speedier at the start of the year. Properties that were foreclosed in the first quarter of 2018 had been in the process for an average of 791 days, down 23 percent from the average of 1,027 days in the fourth quarter of 2017 and 3 percent from the average of 814 days in the first quarter of 2017.

Nevada had the longest average foreclosure process in the first quarter of 2018 at 1,765 days. The process was shortest in Virginia, with an average of 193 days.


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