Home repossessions in the U.S. plunged 29 percent last month from a year earlier to the lowest level since 2007 amid increased efforts by state lawmakers and courts to delay property seizures, according to RealtyTrac. Banks took 45,038 properties from delinquent borrowers in February, an 11 percent decrease from the previous month and the fewest since September 2007, the Irvine, California-based data provider said today in a report. Forty-one states had drops in completed foreclosures from February 2012, led by declines of 78 percent in Oregon and 69 percent in Massachusetts.
“The U.S. foreclosure inferno has been effectively contained and should be reduced to a slow burn in the next two years,” Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, said in the report. “But dangerous foreclosure flare-ups are still popping up in states where foreclosures have been delayed by a lengthy court process or by new legislation making it more difficult to foreclose outside of the court system.”
Refinancing programs for borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth are helping cut foreclosures as companies add workers and mortgage rates remain low. Residential values rose 6.8 percent in December from a year earlier, the biggest gain since 2006, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index. The average rate on a 30-year fixed loan was 3.52 percent as of March 7, close to the lowest level on record, according to Freddie Mac.
About 1.1 million property owners last year received new terms through the government’s Home Affordable Refinance Program, double the number in 2011 and more than the Washington- based Federal Housing Finance Agency estimated, according to a March 13 report. Borrowers in the hardest-hit states sought relief, with 68 percent of Nevada refinances and 58 percent in Florida going through HARP, the FHFA said.