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Foreclosure Starts Leveling Off After Spiking to Start 2015

avoid-foreclosure [1]Foreclosure starts dropped off by 15 percent according to Black Knight Financial Services [2]' February 2015 Mortgage Monitor [3] released earlier this week, almost reversing the spike they experienced in January – indicating that foreclosure starts may be leveling off and even nearing pre-recession numbers.

Black Knight reported the largest total of foreclosure starts for one month in January since December 2013, a number that was likely due to "seasonality," according to Black Knight's SVP of Loan Data Products, Trey Barnes, who noted that foreclosure starts have spiked in three of the last four Januarys and cautioned that one month's data does not make a trend.

While more than 94,000 foreclosure starts were reported for January, that number sank to slightly less than 80,000 for February, a drop of more than 15 percent and the third lowest monthly total for foreclosure starts since August 2006 – before the housing crisis.

Part of the reason for the repeated January spike in foreclosure starts could be reluctance on the part of mortgagees to enforce foreclosure during the holiday season. For example, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced right before Christmas that there would be a two-week moratorium on carrying out single-family foreclosure evictions, from December 17 to January 2.

"As in previous years, we believe it is important to extend the timeline of help for struggling borrowers during the holidays," said Joy Cianci, SVP of Credit Portfolio Management for Fannie Mae.

Also according to Black Knight's February Mortgage Monitor, a couple of other noteworthy statistics dipped to near pre-recession levels. Foreclosure inventory, is the total number of residential properties in any state of foreclosure, fell to below 800,000 nationwide for the first time since December 2007. The delinquency rate – the percentage of mortgages 30 days or more past due but not in foreclosure – fell to 5.36 percent in February (about 2.7 million properties), its lowest level since August 2007, according to Black Knight.

Those are not the only foreclosure statistics that seem to be leveling off, however – in the January 2015 National Foreclosure Report [4] by CoreLogic [5],  foreclosure completions – the true indicator of homes lost to foreclosure – declined by 33 percent year-over-year nationwide from 822,000 down to 549,000. CoreLogic is scheduled to release its February foreclosure report on April 14.