U.S. Foreclosures Dip 14 Percent

RealtyTrac reported Thursday that US foreclosures dipped 14 percent in February from the previous month in a sign that the long foreclosure crisis may finally be nearing an end. The housing data provider said filings were down a whopping 27 percent from February 2010, the biggest year-to-year decline the firm has ever recorded.

The improvement may be partially exaggerated, however, resulting from the recent investigation into the robo-signing scandal, said RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio. “Allegations of improper foreclosure processing continued to dog the mortgage servicing industry and disrupt court dockets,” Saccacio explained. “The industry is in the midst of a major overhaul that has severely restricted its capacity to process foreclosures.”

Another factor contributing to the decline was the severe winter storms that hit much of the country, delaying the processing of foreclosure-related paperwork. There were still more than 225,000 filings in the month, including notices of default, notices of auction sales, and other related filings. The total represents one in every 577 US homes receiving some kind of filing. Banks, meanwhile, seized a total of 64,643 homes from delinquent borrowers, sharply down from the peak of 102,000 set last September.

While the US housing market should be somewhat buoyed by the report, other recent housing reports seem to indicate that the market is not out of trouble yet. In the past few days, the S&P / Case-Shiller index of home prices showed a continuing decline in values, while Zillow reported that close to 30 percent of Americans with outstanding home loans are underwater, meaning they owe more on the loan than the home is worth.