Foreclosure filings – default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions – were reported on 572,928 properties during the 2012 first quarter, down 2 percent from the previous quarter and down 16 percent from the first quarter of 2011, according to RealtyTrac’s U.S. Foreclosure Market report released Thursday.
For just March alone, foreclosure filings were reported on 198,853 properties, the lowest monthly total since July 2007.
“The low foreclosure numbers in the first quarter are not an indication that the massive reservoir of distressed properties built up over the past few years has somehow miraculously evaporated,” said Brandon Moore, CEO of RealtyTrac. “There are hairline cracks in the dam, evident in the sizable foreclosure activity increases in judicial foreclosure states over the past several months, along with an increase in foreclosure starts in many judicial and non-judicial states in March.”
The slowdown in foreclosure activity for non-judicial states, including the District of Columbia, was noted as the primary reason behind the lower number of filings.
With 329,854 foreclosure filings in non-judicial states during the quarter, non-judicial states saw an 8 percent drop from the previous quarter and a 28 percent decrease from the first quarter of 2011.
In addition, 20 non-judicial states registered year-over-year decreases in foreclosure activity, led by Arkansas, with a 79 percent drop, and Nevada, with a 62 percent drop. The drop is due to recent legislative changes or court cases for both states.
Other non-judicial states with significant year-over-year decreases in foreclosure activity included Washington (-55 percent), Arizona (-41 percent), Texas (-31 percent), and California (-21 percent).
Meanwhile, foreclosure activity in the 26 judicial states increased, accounting for 243,074 foreclosure filings during the quarter, an 8 percent increase from the previous quarter and a 10 percent hike from the first quarter of 2011 a year ago.
Judicial states actually posted some of the biggest year-over-year increases in foreclosure activity in the first quarter, including Indiana (+45 percent), Connecticut (+38 percent), Massachusetts (+26 percent), Florida (+26 percent), South Carolina (+26 percent), and Pennsylvania (+23 percent).
The time it took to complete the foreclosure process increased in the first quarter, averaging 370 days, up from 348 days in the previous quarter and the highest average number of days going back to the first quarter of 2007.
Some states did see a decrease, with California actually dropping to 320 days, down from 352 days in the previous quarter and the second straight quarterly decrease after 12 straight quarterly increases.
The average time to foreclose also declined in Colorado, Utah, Massachusetts, Nevada, Michigan and Maryland. Despite the decrease for Maryland, the state still takes 618 days to complete the foreclosure process.
The four states that took the longest to complete the foreclosure process were New York (1,056 days), New Jersey (966 days), Florida (861 days) and Illinois (628 days).
First-time foreclosure starts, which encompasses default notices or scheduled foreclosure auctions, depending on the state’s foreclosure process, increased 7 percent from February to March, the third straight monthly increase.
Foreclosure starts in March exceeded 100,000 for the first time since November 2011, although they were still down 11 percent from a year ago.
States with the biggest monthly increases in foreclosure starts included Nevada (+153 percent), Utah (+103 percent), New Jersey (+73 percent), Maryland (+53 percent), and North Carolina (+47 percent). Thirty-one states posted monthly increases in foreclosure starts in March.
Nevada, with the nation’s highest foreclosure rate, with one in every 95 housing units with a foreclosure filing in the first quarter, actually saw steep decreases in foreclosure activity, with a 26 percent drop in activity from the previous quarter and down 62 percent from the first quarter of 2011.
California ranked second for foreclosure rates, with with one in every 103 housing units with a foreclosure filing. Arizona (one in every 106) came in at number three, Georgia (one in 119) at number four, and Florida (one in 123) took the fifth spot.
California was number one for foreclosure activity totals, with 133,245 properties that had foreclosure filings in the first quarter. The state accounted for 23 percent of foreclosure activity during the quarter. Florida (73,344) was second, Illinois (37,660) held the third spot, Georgia (34,234) was number four, and Michigan (27,934) was at number five.