The number of owners on the brink of losing their homes fell both nationally and in Indiana in the first quarter to the lowest level in three years, according to an industry report released Thursday.
More than 681,000 U.S. households, or one in every 191 homes, received a foreclosure-related notice in the three months through March, down 15 percent from the fourth quarter and 27 percent from a year earlier, Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac Inc. said.
Indiana generally is faring better than most states. Foreclosure filings in the state were down 36 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period of 2010, ranking it the seventh biggest annual decline in the nation. However, filings in Indiana were up 30 percent from the fourth quarter.
The total of 8,377 Indiana properties with foreclosure filings in the first quarter represents one of every 335 housing units, ranking Indiana 28th among states in that category.
RealtyTrac attributed the decline in national foreclosure filings to delays in working through a backlog of flawed paperwork related to a documentation scandal rather than an improving economy.
“It may take another quarter to work itself out,” Rick Sharga, the company’s senior vice president, said. The extended crisis means “a longer period of high foreclosures, and that portends a longer downturn in housing,” which may not end until 2015, he said.
An agreement with regulators announced Wednesday requires the 14 largest U.S. mortgage servicers to identify and pay back homeowners who lost money from mishandled foreclosures or loans. The banks that are party to the settlement, which outlines the first penalties related to the scandal, didn’t admit or deny findings of faulty mortgage processing.
“Our enforcement actions are intended to fix what is broken, identify and compensate borrowers who suffered financial harm, and ensure a fair and orderly mortgage servicing process going forward,” John Walsh, acting comptroller of the currency, said in a written statement.
Officials from the Justice Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and 10 state attorneys general met with banks on Wednesday, the second such meeting to negotiate a global settlement. The group is discussing potential fines and whether servicers should be required to reduce the principal on some home loans.
Besides Indiana, states that reported large annual drops in foreclosure filings were Maryland, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Oregon.
Nevada had the highest rate of filings per household, with one in every 35 getting a notice. Arizona ranked second at one in 60, and California was third at one in 80, RealtyTrac said.
Utah, Idaho, Georgia, Michigan, Florida, Colorado and Illinois also ranked among the states with the 10 highest rates.
California had the most filings in the quarter at 168,543, almost 25 percent of the U.S. total. Florida was second with 58,322 and Arizona third with 46,047.
Georgia, Michigan, Texas, Illinois, Nevada, Ohio and Colorado rounded out the top 10, according to RealtyTrac, which sells default data from more than 2,200 counties representing 90 percent of the U.S. population.