Good News for Homeowners: Fewer Foreclosures in June

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Matt York/AP
NEW YORK -- U.S. home foreclosure filings tumbled in June to a 6½-year low, a further sign the housing market is getting back on better footing, a report from RealtyTrac showed Thursday.

Overall, 127,790 properties had foreclosure filings last month, down 14 percent from May, and down 35 percent from a year earlier. It was the lowest level since December 2006.

There were also fewer homes entering the foreclosure process, while lenders seized less homes. In the first six months of the year, banks took over 248,538 homes, putting repossessions on track for about 500,000 for the year, which would be down from the over 671,000 seen last year.

"We are getting tantalizingly close to being back to normal, healthy foreclosure levels, at least on a nationwide basis," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

Repossessions were down in 34 states in June from a year ago, though some states saw significant increases, including Arkansas, Oklahoma and Maryland.
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The housing market has gotten back on its feet in the last year with home prices rising and sales improving. Fewer foreclosures have also helped the sector heal and improved homebuyer confidence.

States that process foreclosures through the court system, known as judicial states, appeared to be loosening the logjam of pending cases that has plagued the market.

Judicial foreclosure auctions were scheduled for 28,296 properties in June, up less than 1 percent from May but a jump of 34 percent from last year.

Some of the states with the biggest yearly increases in scheduled auctions are also states that have struggled the most with a backed-up pipeline of distressed homes, including New Jersey, Florida and New York.

Still, the time it takes to foreclose continued to lengthen. Properties foreclosed in the second quarter took an average 526 days to foreclose, up from 577 days in the first quarter.

"Once that number turns the corner and starts going down, that will be a strong indication that the lenders and courts have worked through the backlog and now we're just dealing with the fresher vintage of foreclosures," Blomquist said.

Foreclosure times were the longest in New York and New Jersey, with both states taking 1,033 days.

Hard-hit Florida had the highest foreclosure rate in the first half of the year, with a foreclosure filing on 1.7 percent of homes, or one in every 58. That's nearly three times the national average of one in every 164 homes.

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Good News for Homeowners: Fewer Foreclosures in June
The gross domestic product measures the level of economic activity within a country. To figure the number, the Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the total consumption of goods and services by private individuals and businesses; the total investment in capital for producing goods and services; the total amount spent and consumed by federal, state, and local government entities; and total net exports. It's important, because it serves as the primary gauge of whether the economy is growing or not. Most economists define a recession as two or more consecutive quarters of shrinking GDP.
The CPI measures current price levels for the goods and services that Americans buy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics collects price data on a basket of different items, ranging from necessities like food, clothing and housing to more discretionary expenses like eating out and entertainment. The resulting figure is then compared to those of previous months to determine the inflation rate, which is used in a variety of ways, including cost-of-living increases for Social Security and other government benefits.
The unemployment rate measures the percentage of workers within the total labor force who don't have a job, but who have looked for work in the past four weeks, and who are available to work. Those temporarily laid off from their jobs are also included as unemployed. Yet as critical as the figure is as a measure of how many people are out of work and therefore suffering financial hardship from a lack of a paycheck, one key item to note about the unemployment rate is that the number does not reflect workers who have stopped looking for work entirely. It's therefore important to look beyond the headline numbers to see whether the overall workforce is growing or shrinking.
The trade deficit measures the difference between the value of a nation's imported and exported goods. When exports exceed imports, a country runs a trade surplus. But in the U.S., imports have exceeded exports consistently for decades. The figure is important as a measure of U.S. competitiveness in the global market, as well as the nation's dependence on foreign countries.
Each month, the Bureau of Economic Analysis measures changes in the total amount of income that the U.S. population earns, as well as the total amount they spend on goods and services. But there's a reason we've combined them on one slide: In addition to being useful statistics separately for gauging Americans' earning power and spending activity, looking at those numbers in combination gives you a sense of how much people are saving for their future.
Consumers play a vital role in powering the overall economy, and so measures of how confident they are about the economy's prospects are important in predicting its future health. The Conference Board does a survey asking consumers to give their assessment of both current and future economic conditions, with questions about business and employment conditions as well as expected future family income.
The health of the housing market is closely tied to the overall direction of the broader economy. The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, named for economists Karl Case and Robert Shiller, provides a way to measure home prices, allowing comparisons not just across time but also among different markets in cities and regions of the nation. The number is important not just to home builders and home buyers, but to the millions of people with jobs related to housing and construction.
Most economic data provides a backward-looking view of what has already happened to the economy. But the Conference Board's Leading Economic Index attempts to gauge the future. To do so, the index looks at data on employment, manufacturing, home construction, consumer sentiment, and the stock and bond markets to put together a complete picture of expected economic conditions ahead.
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