U.S. foreclosure filings were down 23 percent in March from a year earlier, providing more evidence that the housing market is stabilizing.
First quarter foreclosure numbers were at the lowest point since the second quarter of 2007, according to the latest data from RealtyTrac. A total of 442,117 filing were reported, down 12 percent from the previous quarter and 23 percent lower than the first quarter of 2012.
However, RealtyTrac signaled that not all the pain is in the past.
"Although the overall national foreclosure trend continues to head lower, late-blooming foreclosures are bolting higher in some local markets where aggressive foreclosure prevention efforts in previous years are wearing off," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, in a statement. "Meanwhile, more recent foreclosure prevention efforts in other states have drastically increased the average time to foreclose, which could result in a similar outbreak of delayed foreclosures down the road in those states."
Foreclosures continued to mount in Florida, Nevada and Illinois. A total of 85,671 Florida properties went into foreclosure in the first quarter, an increase of 17 percent from the first quarter of 2012, the most of any state. Nevada foreclosure activity was 13 percent higher from the previous quarter, but was still down 18 percent from a year. The quarterly spike was due to an 88 percent increase in foreclosure starts from the previous quarter, RealtyTrac reports
More findings from the latest numbers:
Foreclosure starts increased 2 percent from February to March, the second straight monthly increase following three consecutive monthly decreases. There were a total of 73,113 foreclosure starts nationwide in March, which is still down 28 percent from a year ago.
Foreclosure starts in March increased from the previous month in 23 states and were up annually in 12 states, led by New York (200 percent increase), Maryland (193 percent increase) and Washington (154 percent increase).
Lenders repossessed 43,597 properties nationwide in March, the lowest since September 2007. U.S. bank repossessions (REOs) in March decreased 3 percent from February and were down 21 percent from a year ago.
A total of 34 states reported annual decreases in REO activity in March, including Oregon (down 72 percent), Utah (down 71 percent), Massachusetts (down 61 percent), Michigan (down 56 percent), and Nevada (down 55 percent).
States bucking the national downward trend in REOs included Arkansas (up 121 percent annually in March), Maryland (up 114 percent), Washington (up 88 percent), Pennsylvania (up 41 percent), and Ohio (up 39 percent).
Properties repossessed by lenders in the first quarter took an average of 477 days to complete the foreclosure process, up from 414 days in the previous quarter and a record high since RealtyTrac began tracking this metric in the first quarter of 2007.
The average time to foreclose in the first quarter increased from the previous quarter in 39 states, led by Oregon (up 61 percent), Arkansas (up 42 percent), Texas (up 40 percent), Tennessee (up 37 percent), and Michigan (up 22 percent) -- all non-judicial foreclosure states.