Home Foreclosures Fall to Lowest Level in 8 Years

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Foreclosure Rates
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
By Elvina Nawaguna

WASHINGTON -- Foreclosure activity in the United States dropped last month to the lowest level since July 2006, before the housing bubble burst, and likely will continue to drop through the first half of next year, an industry group said Thursday.

RealtyTrac, which tracks housing market trends, said that 107,194 properties across the country were at some stage of the foreclosure process in June. That marked a 2 percent decline from May and left foreclosure activity, which includes foreclosure notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, 16 percent below the year-ago level.

"Over the next six to nine months, nationwide foreclosure numbers should start to flatline at consistently historically normal levels," RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist said in a statement.

June was the 45th consecutive month foreclosure activity was down on an annual basis.

Declining foreclosures have reduced the supply of properties on the market, pushing home prices up. That, combined with higher mortgage rates, has slowed the recovery of the U.S. housing market.

Lenders reclaimed a total of 26,889 properties in June, down 5 percent from May and the lowest level since June 2007. Repossessions were down 24 percent from a year ago.

Nationwide, 46,743 properties were set for foreclosure auctions, a 13 percent decrease from the last year, bringing scheduled foreclosure auctions to the lowest level since July 2006.

Lenders started the foreclosure process on 47,243 properties in June, down 18 percent from a year ago, and the lowest level since November 2005.

Florida continued to have the nation's highest foreclosure rate, followed by Illinois, New Jersey and Nevada.

The RealtyTrac report also included data for the first half of the year, which showed foreclosure activity decreased in 79 percent of the 212 metropolitan areas during the first half of 2014.

Foreclosure activity for the first six months of the year was down 23 percent from the same period in 2013.

"While it's important that any remaining foreclosure infection is addressed promptly to keep it from festering, foreclosures are no longer a widespread contagion threatening to derail the housing market's return to full health," Blomquist said.

Home Foreclosures Fall to Lowest Level in 8 Years
If you've been making mortgage payments for a while now, it may have become just another task you do automatically each month. But it's time to start thinking about your end game. When will your house officially be paid in full, and how will that date intersect with your other plans? Do you need to adjust anything to make your "mortgage freedom" date align with the rest of your life? For example: Do you want to have your house paid off by the time your kids leave for college? If so, start scrutinizing the timing, so you can figure out if you need to make extra payments.
The average student graduating in 2014 emerged with $29,000 in student loan debt. There's no predicting what that number will be once your children are ready to don a cap and gown. But you don't want your kids to be saddled with tens of thousands in debt as they begin their adult lives (or potentially live in your basement well into their 30s because of that debt).

While your children should absolutely apply for every scholarship they can, you can't count on them getting what they'll need. So. there's no time like the present to start seriously building up their college funds. If you're not quite sure about the best ways for you to do that (529 plans are great, but they're not the only good choise), a fee-only financial adviser can walk you through your options.
Are you putting aside enough for retirement? Aim to replace 70 percent to 85 percent of your current income, or save 25 times your current annual expenses. Once you have that final number in mind, use an online retirement calculator or sit down with a financial adviser to come up with a plan for how much you'll need to save each year to reach it. If you haven't already done this, don't delay another day. Future You will thank you.
Credit card debt is a shackle that can prevent you from reaching every other monetary goal on your list. One of the first things you need to do to get your financial house in order is to eliminate all consumer debt -- the sooner, the better. Otherwise, you're losing money each month that could be put to better use elsewhere.

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Your current vehicle won't last forever, no matter how diligent you are at taking care of it. When it comes time to buy a new car, will you have saved enough to make the purchase in cash? As you get older, you should be systematically reducing the number of financial obligations you're saddled with -- not adding on new ones. Car loans take from three to seven years to pay off. (The current average length is around 5½ years.) Even if your current car lasts you well into your 50s, financing a new one could mean that you'll be facing loan payments into your retirement years. Instead, plan ahead so you can pay cash.
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