Foreclosures in the United States have been steadily declining for months nearly every way the numbers are broken down, and December was no exception, according to CoreLogic's December 2014 National Foreclosure Report released Tuesday.
Foreclosure inventory nationwide dropped in December down to 552,000 from 840,000 in December 2013, a decline of 34.3 percent. As of the end of December 2014, approximately 1.4 percent of all homes with a mortgage were in some state of foreclosure – a decline from 2.1 percent from the previous December. The current foreclosure rate of 1.4 percent is the lowest level since March 2008.
Every state except for West Virginia posted a double-digit year-over-year decline in foreclosure inventory in December – and West Virginia came close to double digits with a decline of 9.5 percent. The District of Columbia saw an increase of 21.7 percent from the previous year.
Completed foreclosures, which are a true indicator of the total number of homes lost to foreclosure, totaled 39,000 in December, which was a 4.9 percent drop from November (41,000) and a 13.7 percent decline from the previous December (45,000). About 563,000 foreclosures were completed during the entire year of 2014, down by nearly 100,000 from the previous year. Florida led the nation again in 12-month sum of completed foreclosures at 118,000 (about 21 percent of the nation's total for that period). Five states – Florida, Michigan (49,000), Texas (35,000), California (29,000), and Ohio (28,000) accounted for about 46 percent of the nation's completed foreclosures in 2014. The state with the lowest number of completed foreclosures in 2014 was South Dakota with 40.
"In 2014, the annual sum of completed foreclosures declined 15 percent from the 662,000 reported in 2013," said Sam Khater, chief economist at CoreLogic. "Completed foreclosures last year were less than half the 1.2 million peak on 2010, but remain twice the level of normal activity over 10 years ago."
Approximately 4.1 percent of residential mortgage loans, or about 1.55 million, were in serious delinquency (90 or more days overdue or in foreclosure) as of the end of December 2014, according to CoreLogic. That number represented a 21.6 percent decline from the previous December.
Thirty-six states reported a foreclosure rate of less than the national average of 1.4 percent for December. However, a few states remained well above the national average, led by New Jersey (5.2 percent), New York (4.0 percent), Florida (3.7 percent), Hawaii (2.7 percent), and Washington, D.C. (2.4 percent). Florida's rate remained high despite posting the second largest year-over-year decline in foreclosure inventory among states in December at 48.6 percent (Utah was first with 48.8 percent).
"The steady decline in the number of foreclosures is a good sign of healing in the U.S. housing market," said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. "Nonetheless, there remain many pockets of the country with very high foreclosure inventories, underscoring the unevenness of the nation's housing recovery."
The five states with the lowest foreclosure rates in December were Alaska at 0.3 percent, Nebraska and North Dakota at 0.4 percent each, and Arizona and Montana with 0.5 percent each.
Among metropolitan areas, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida was tops in the nation with 18,435 completed foreclosures in 2014 (about 3.2 percent of all completed foreclosures nationwide). Tampa had the highest foreclosure rate in December among metro areas (4.9 percent) despite a year-over-year decline in 3.2 percentage points, and Tampa also had the highest serious delinquency rate (9.1 percent).