Home Foreclosures Fall to Lowest Level in Nearly 8 Years

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LOS ANGELES -- Fewer U.S. homes entered the foreclosure process or were repossessed by banks in June, the latest sign that the nation is shaking off its housing bust hangover.

Lenders initiated the foreclosure process on 57,286 homes last month, the lowest level for any month in 7½ years, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

Foreclosure starts are on pace to reach roughly 800,000 this year, down from 1.1 million last year, the firm said.

Completed foreclosures, when the lender repossesses a home, are on track to hit a half-million, or about a quarter below last year's total.

The trend comes as the U.S. housing recovery continues to gain strength, propelled by steady job gains, low interest rates, improving consumer confidence and growing demand for homes at a time when there's a thin supply of available homes for sale in many markets.

That's helped boost home prices, which jumped 12.2 percent in May from a year earlier -- the biggest gain in seven years, according to data provider CoreLogic.

Even so, foreclosures remain a potential drag on housing in many states, including Florida, Nevada, Illinois and Ohio.

"Halfway through 2013, it is becoming increasingly evident that while foreclosures are no longer a national problem, they continue to be a state and local market problem," said Daren Blomquist, a vice president at RealtyTrac.

Homes scheduled for auction in states like Florida, where the courts play a role in the foreclosure process, were up 34 percent in June from a year earlier, the firm said.

Scheduled home auctions doubled last month in New Jersey and Florida, which also posted the highest foreclosure rate of any state -- nearly three times the national average -- in the first six months of the year, the firm said.
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Most homes lined up for public auction typically end up going back to lenders, which opens the door for the properties to be placed on the market as sharply discounted foreclosed homes later this year or in 2013.

Nationally, the inventory of previously occupied homes on the market was 10 percent below prior-year levels in May, according to the National Association of Realtors. So the potential for more foreclosures going on sale will likely be welcome news to would-be homebuyers in markets where there is a tight supply of available homes.

The number of homes that entered the foreclosure process in June was down 21 percent from May and about 45 percent below June 2012's total.

Lenders repossessed 35,507 homes last month, down nearly 9 percent from May and a drop of 35 percent from a year earlier. That's still short of the 25,000 or so a month that Blomquist considers the benchmark for foreclosures in a "normal" housing market.

At the height of the housing boom in 2006, completed foreclosures averaged 22,000 a month. They peaked in September 2010 at 102,000. Tighter lending standards for home loans since the housing bubble burst have helped slow the pace of foreclosures.

About 75 percent of the 824,292 U.S. homes in the foreclosure process as of June are tied to loans that were originated between 2004 and 2008.

"That's a good sign that the lending has much improved and we're not seeing high foreclosure rates on mortgages that have been taken out since 2008," Blomquist said.

Where Millionaires Live in America
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Home Foreclosures Fall to Lowest Level in Nearly 8 Years

Metro Population: 1.8 million

Concentration of Millionaire Households: 8.3%

Number of Millionaire Households: 52,043

Median Income for All Households: $88,339

Median Home Value: $674,800

The original California capital has come a long way from its farm town origins. Today, San Jose is the center of Silicon Valley. And the area, including Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, is home to some of the world's biggest tech companies, including Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Google. Such employers tend to reward their geeks handsomely. Google even keeps its interns well-heeled, paying those specializing in software engineering an average $6,432 a month, according to employment research firm Glassdoor. The hefty paychecks can help cover housing costs — the San Jose area's median home value is the highest on this list, and a whopping 20.8% of houses are worth $1 million or more, compared with just 2.3% of all U.S. homes.

Metro Population: 5.5 million

Concentration of Millionaire Households: 8.6%

Number of Millionaire Households: 182,993

Median Income for All Households: $88,486

Median Home Value: $399,400

The nation's seat of power is topped with a plump cash cushion. The D.C. area is home to the greatest number of millionaire households on this list and ranks fourth overall behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In D.C. proper, you can find many moneyed residents, including high-profile politicians, lobbyists and contractors, living in the townhouses of Georgetown and Capitol Hill. Outside the District, millionaires can enjoy the suburban life in Arlington, Va.; Bethesda, Md.; and other well-off neighborhoods.

Metro Population: 320,087

Concentration of Millionaire Households: 8.9%

Number of Millionaire Households: 12,078

Median Income for All Households: $56,876

Median Home Value: $317,200

Beautiful beaches and top-drawer retailers lay out the welcome mat for thousands of millionaires, as well as leisure travelers, who flock south for the warmth of the Gulf Coast. Shoppers seeking upscale styles have many options, including Cartier, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, at the open-air Waterside Shops. And golfers have just as many choices when it comes to links – there are more than 90 golf courses nearby. Another kind of green that may interest people in the area: eco-tourism. You can get a glimpse of the local wildlife a short drive away at Everglades National Park and Ten Thousand Islands. While real estate in the area tends to become more affordable as you move inland, the median value of homes in prime coastal locales such as Pelican Bay and the City of Naples is about $800,000.

Metro Population: 911,196

Concentration of Millionaire Households: 8.9%

Number of Millionaire Households: 30,048

Median Income for All Households: $82,558

Median Home Value: $466,700

The southwest coast of Connecticut, stretching from Bridgeport to the border with New York, provides a perfect (and preppy) suburban base for high-powered commuters, many of whom work and play in nearby Manhattan. Nearly 34,000 residents, or 8.1% of the local labor force, are employed in management positions, earning about $68 per hour on average. And 16.7% of households report an annual income of $200,000 or more; only 4.5% of the country's households pull in that much each year. Those high paychecks can help cover the area's high costs. Stamford proper is one of America's most expensive big cities, and typical homes in small affluent towns such as Greenwich and Darien go for $1 million.

Photo: Chrisbkes, Flickr.com

Total Metro Population: 18,040

Concentration of Millionaire Households: 11.7%

Number of Millionaire Households: 906

Median Income for All Households: $104,914

Median Home Value: $300,700

This tiny New Mexico town has the smallest population, as well as the highest concentration of millionaires, on this list. Chalk up the density of affluence to the National Laboratory, a research facility focused on national security and the county's largest employer. Since the lab was established in 1943 as site Y of the Manhattan Project, it has drawn some of the world's top scientific minds with state-of-the-art facilities, currently including more than 1,200 buildings on a 36-square-mile campus, and generous paychecks. In fact, the area's six-figure median household income is the highest on this list. And relatively low living costs — just 2.9% above the U.S. average — will help wealthy residents hold on to their fortunes.

Photo: Larry1732, Flickr.com

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