A rise in foreclosure starts and auctions caused an increase in U.S. foreclosure activity in March, up 4.0 percent from the previous month. The U.S. Foreclosure Market Report released by RealtyTrac reported approximately 117,000 foreclosure filings for the month, down 23 percent from March 2013.
Foreclosure starts increased by 7.0 percent on a month-over-month basis, and foreclosure auctions increased monthly by 6.0 percent, fueling the larger foreclosure activity numbers for the month.
The report found that the average time to complete a foreclosure rose to 572 days nationwide, a 1.0 percent increase from the previous quarter’s average of 564 days. However, the average time to complete a foreclosure is still up 20 percent from the first quarter of 2013, when the average completion time was 477 days.
Foreclosure activity is the lowest it has been since the second quarter of 2007. Approximately 341,000 U.S. properties had a foreclosure notice in Q1 2014, down 3 percent from the previous quarter and down 23 percent from Q1 2013.
1 in every 385 U.S. housing units had a foreclosure filing in the first quarter.
"Now that the foreclosure deluge has dried up, banks are turning their attention back to properties that have been sitting in foreclosure limbo for some time," said Daren Blomquist, VP at RealtyTrac.
Repossessed properties were approximately 28,000 for the month. March's figure represents a 5 percent drop from the previous month. Repossessed properties on a year-over-year basis fell 34 percent—an 80-month low and the lowest level since July 2007.
"Banks will also now be able to devote more resources to dealing with the lingering inventory of nearly half a million already-foreclosed homes that still need to be sold," Blomquist added. "Our estimates indicate only 10 percent of these bank-owned properties are listed for sale and more than half are still occupied by the former homeowner or tenant."
In addition to foreclosure data, RealtyTrac also provided an update of occupied REOs, which the company describes as "bank-owned properties still occupied after the completed foreclosure."
Of the roughly 259,000 bank-owned properties with available owner-occupancy data, and out of a total of approximately 483,000 bank-owned homes nationwide, 51 percent were still occupied by the former homeowner or a tenant.
The average time to sell a bank-owned property increased by 34 percent to 226 days, up from 168 days in Q1 of 2013.
States with above-average time to sell REOs included Texas (347 days), Michigan (342 days), Minnesota (313 days), Colorado (305 days), and Georgia (276 days).
Florida was first in foreclosure activity by state, followed by Maryland, Nevada, and Illinois.