LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lenders repossessed fewer U.S. homes in January, bringing the number of completed foreclosures down to the lowest level in more than six years.
Even so, many states posted sharp increases in the number of homes entering the foreclosure process for the first time, a trend that raises the likelihood that those states will see a surge in foreclosed homes later this year.
Banks took back 30,226 homes last month, a drop of 4 percent from December, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.
Completed foreclosures were down 40 percent from January last year to the lowest level since July 2007, the firm said.
A dozen states posted annual increases in foreclosures, including New York, Oklahoma, Connecticut and New Jersey.
While foreclosures remain elevated in many populous states, they have been steadily on the wane since the U.S. housing market and economy began to rebound after years of decline.
The U.S. housing market has emerged from a deep slump, aided by rising home prices, steady job growth and fewer troubled loans dating back to the housing-bubble days. Meanwhile, more homeowners are keeping up with their mortgage payments.
That's led to fewer homes entering the foreclosure pipeline on a national level.
In some states, however, there is a backlog of homes with mortgages gone unpaid. Typically these are states like New York and Florida, where the courts play a role in the foreclosure process. In other states, like California and Nevada, laws aimed at stalling foreclosures have extended the time it takes for the process to play out.