Massive foreclosures appear to be a thing of the past as the U.S. is on track to end the year with the fewest homes repossessed by lenders in six years, a trend that should help limit the negative impact foreclosures have on home values.
For real estate professionals this could be an indicator that new listings might be coming into the market as fewer home owners have underwater mortgages.
Lenders repossessed 36,964 U.S. homes last month, down 31 percent from July last year, reported foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc.
At the monthly average we’ve seen in the first seven months of this year, completed foreclosures are projected to total nearly 490,000 this year, down roughly 27 percent from last year, the firm said. That’s also the lowest since 2007, when 404,849 homes were taken back by banks.
Foreclosures peaked in 2010 at 1.05 million and have been declining ever since. The trend has been accelerating as U.S. home prices have increased amid a resurgent housing market, steady job gains and still-low mortgage interest rates.
The foreclosure pipeline is also getting thinner on the front end. Lenders initiated the foreclosure process on 60,601 homes in July, down 38 percent from a year earlier, RealtyTrac said.
Foreclosure starts and the number of homes repossessed by banks each increased 6 percent and 4 percent, respectively, from June. But annual increases, which are more telling of the long-term trend, occurred in less than half of the states.
Some 9.7 million homes, or 19.8 percent of all U.S. homes with a mortgage, were in negative equity at the end of the first quarter, according to data provider CoreLogic. That’s down from 10.5 million, or 21.7 percent of homes with a mortgage, at the end of last year.
In a healthy housing market, underwater mortgages historically account for about five percent of all homes with a mortgage.
Most of the homes in some stage of foreclosure as of July are tied to home loans that were made during the housing boom, before banks tightened their lending standards.
Of the 562,533 homes already on the foreclosure path, 71 percent have loans that were originated between 2004 and 2008, the firm said.
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