Foreclosure starts increased 21% in March compared with February but decreased 11% compared with March 2015, according to estimates recently released by RealtyTrac.
Foreclosure starts increased in 20 states, year over year, including Connecticut (up 169%), Arizona (up 125%), Delaware (up 78%), Iowa (up 64%) and Massachusetts (up 51%), according to the firm’s monthly U.S. Foreclosure Market Report.
Scheduled foreclosure auctions – which are an indication of completed foreclosures – also increased in March. They were up 25% compared with February but down 15% compared with March 2015.
In the non-judicial states, scheduled foreclosure auctions increased 18% compared with February, while in the judicial states, they increased 17%.
Year over year, scheduled foreclosure auctions increased in 23 states, including Massachusetts (up 211%), New York (up 92%), Pennsylvania (up 49%), Maryland (up 43%) and South Carolina (up 37%).
RealtyTrac’s report also looks at total foreclosure activity – including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions – for March and for the first quarter.
Nationwide, foreclosure filings were reported on 289,116 U.S. properties in the first quarter – a decrease of 4% compared with the fourth quarter of 2015 and a decrease of 8% compared with the first quarter of 2015.
It was the lowest quarterly total since the fourth quarter of 2006 – a more than nine-year low, RealtyTrac says.
What’s more, foreclosure activity was below pre-recession levels in 78 out of 216 metropolitan statistical areas – or 36% of all U.S. housing markets.
“Despite a seasonal bump higher in March, foreclosure activity in most markets continues to trend lower and back toward more healthy, stable levels,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of RealtyTrac, in a statement. “More than one-third of the 216 local markets we analyzed were below their pre-recession foreclosure activity averages in the first quarter, and we would expect a growing number of markets to move below that milestone the rest of this year – while the number of markets with a lingering low-grade fever of foreclosure activity continues to shrink.”
Blomquist characterizes the seasonal bump as “typical.”
“February is, of course, a shorter month, and banks often ramp up foreclosure filings in March to take advantage of the spring selling season – which should prove particularly favorable to banks this year, given low inventory levels of homes for sale and continued strong demand from buyers regaining confidence in the housing market,” he explains.
Still, the number of properties with foreclosure filings in the first quarter was 4% higher than the pre-recession quarterly average.
As foreclosure volume recedes to pre-crisis levels, state foreclosure pipelines are clearing out more rapidly – and the average time to foreclose is decreasing. According to RealtyTrac’s data, properties foreclosed on during the first quarter of 2016 were in the foreclosure process an average of 625 days, down 1% from 629 days in the previous quarter but still up 1% from 620 days in the first quarter of 2015.
The 1% quarter-over-quarter decrease was the second consecutive quarterly decrease nationwide.
There were six states with an average time to foreclose of more than 1,000 days in the first quarter, including New Jersey (1,234 days); Hawaii (1,110 days); New York (1,061 days); Utah (1,059 days); Florida (1,018 days); and Connecticut (1,007 days).
States with the shortest average time to foreclose in the first quarter were Virginia (195 days), Mississippi (261 days), Wyoming (268 days), Tennessee (269 days) and Texas (272 days).
For more, including a breakdown of foreclosure activity by state and metropolitan area, click here.