NEW YORK New foreclosures on U.S. homes hit their lowest in nearly six years in November, another sign the nation's housing market is recovering, according to a report on Thursday.
U.S. foreclosure starts fell 13 percent from October and were down 28 percent compared with a year ago, the data from RealtyTrac showed. Foreclosure starts were filed for the first time on 77,494 properties in November, the lowest since December 2006.
The drop in new foreclosures coincides with rising prices and improved sentiment in the housing market that many economists believe marks a turning point for the sector after the housing bubble burst six years ago.
The drop in new foreclosures helped push overall foreclosure activity down 3 percent in November compared with October and 19 percent compared with a year earlier, the 26th month with an annual decrease, RealtyTrac said.
"The drop in overall foreclosure activity in November was caused largely by a 71-month low in foreclosure starts for the month, more evidence that we are past the worst," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.
Bank repossession rose, however, for the first time in more than two years. The rise was the first since October 2010 when the exposure of the "robo-signing" of foreclosure documents caused a sharp slowdown in foreclosure activity.
Despite the improving overall picture, there remains a large disparity between states and the lower prices commanded by foreclosed homes is still a headwind for the housing market.
"Foreclosures are continuing to hobble the U.S. housing market as lenders finally seize properties that started the process a year or two ago - and much longer in some cases," said Blomquist. "We're likely not completely out of the woods when it comes to foreclosure starts, either."
Florida's foreclosure rate was the highest for the third month in a row. One in every 304 Florida homes had a foreclosure filing in November - more than twice the national average.
Florida properties with a foreclosure filing in November rose 3 percent from the previous month and were up 20 percent from November 2011.
(Reporting by Edward Krudy. Editing by Andre Grenon)