WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of U.S. properties in the process of being foreclosed upon dropped last year to its lowest level since 2006, real estate data firm RealtyTrac said on Thursday.
In total, 1,117,426 properties were at some stage of foreclosure proceedings in 2014, down 18 percent from 2013 and off 61 percent from the peak of the aftermath of the housing collapse in 2010, when 2,871,891 properties had foreclosure filings under way.
Lenders started foreclosure proceedings on 59,358 properties in December, an increase of 6 percent from the previous month and a 17-month high.
The data for the year overall showed the foreclosure market is “close to finding a floor and stabilizing at a historically normal level,” Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, said in a statement.
Last month’s rise in foreclosure starts showed lenders were preparing for “a spring cleaning” of distressed assets that remain on their books, Blomquist said.
December foreclosure starts increased from a year ago in 26 states, but this was not a cause for concern, Andres Carbacho-Burgos, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics said in a statement.
“The national pool of distressed mortgages has not increased despite the surge in foreclosure filings,” Carbacho-Burgos said.
Lenders repossessed 327,069 properties last year, down 29 percent from 2013, RealtyTrac’s data also showed.
Florida had the nation’s highest foreclosure rate in 2014, followed by New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois and Nevada.
Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Grant McCool