U.S. foreclosure activity fell in January -RealtyTrac

NEW YORK Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:00am EST

NEW YORK Feb 14 (Reuters) - Foreclosure activity declined in January as the number of U.S. homes starting the process fell to the lowest level in more than six years, but the varying legal requirements in each state continued to influence regional markets, data from RealtyTrac showed on Thursday.

Foreclosure starts - the first step in the foreclosure process - were filed on 64,773 homes, down 11 percent from December and down 28 percent from a year ago. It was the lowest level since June 2006.

The drop in starts came as activity in California dried up after legislation enacted at the start of the year placed new rules on all servicers in the state.

Excluding the decline in California, foreclosure starts edged up less than 1 percent compared to December, said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

Overall foreclosure activity was seen on 150,864 properties last month, down 7 percent from December. Compared to a year ago, activity tumbled 28 percent.

"The national trend, which has been consistent, is that we're continuing to see this downward trend in overall foreclosure activity," said Blomquist.

"While the number of foreclosures is going down, nothing we've seen happen over the last two years in terms of trying to prevent foreclosures has been a quick fix."

Banks seized fewer homes, repossessing 50,453 properties, down 5 percent from the month before and down 24 percent from last January. Repossessions were at their lowest level since February 2008.

Florida had the highest foreclosure rate for the fifth month in a row with a filing on one in every 300 homes. Nevada came in second, followed by Illinois.

Of the metros with the highest foreclosure rates, cities in Florida accounted for six of the top 10 with Ocala, Florida taking the number one spot.

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