Foreclosures See a Slight Upswing

a key laying next to a house...

By Christine DiGangi

There was a time when having more than 1 million U.S. homes in foreclosure was the norm. It wasn't that long ago, actually -- the foreclosure inventory only dropped below the million mark in June 2013 -- but as of January 2014, just 794,000 homes were in some state of foreclosure. That's a 33 percent decline from January 2013, according to the most recent CoreLogic foreclosure report.

OK, so it's not "just" 794,000 -- that's still a lot of people struggling with foreclosure -- but it's certainly good news that January marked the 27th month of consecutive year-over-year declines in the national foreclosure inventory. Looking at the filings made in a single month, January was the 40th month of consecutive year-over-year declines in foreclosure activity, according to RealtyTrac, another housing data provider. In January alone, foreclosure filings were made on 124,419 homes, which is an 18 percent decline from 2013 but is an 8 percent increase in activity from December, the largest month-to-month increase since May 2012.

"The monthly increase in January foreclosure activity was somewhat expected after a holiday lull, but the sharp annual increases in some states shows that many states are not completely out of the woods when it comes to cleaning up the wreckage of the housing bust," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, in a news release on the January data.

Overall, 2 percent of the nation's mortgaged homes were in foreclosure last month, and 36 states and D.C. reported foreclosure rates below the national average, according to the CoreLogic report.

The usual suspects make up the other end of the spectrum: Florida leads the country with a 6.4 percent foreclosure rate, followed by New Jersey (6.3 percent), New York (4.8 percent), Connecticut (3.4 percent) and Maine (3.4 percent).

While a few states are working through a backlog of foreclosures, analysts expect the national inventory to continue its decline. There were 48,000 foreclosures completed in January 2014, a 19 percent decline from January 2013. (Completed foreclosures are an indication of how many homes are lost to foreclosure, according to CoreLogic.) It's an improvement but still double the pre-housing-bust average of 21,000 completed foreclosures each month.

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