Blomquist: u201cThe shadow cast by the foreclosure crisis is shrinking.u201d<@SM>Foreclosure starts peaked in 2009 and have been on the decline since then, with completions declining since 2010.<@SM>While not yet at 2006 levels, the number of properties with foreclosure filings is the lowest it's been since 2007.<@SM>More than half of the pre-foreclosure inventory in 2013 was owned for more than five years. ***Charts courtesy of RealtyTrac.

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IRVINE, CA-While overall foreclosure activity increases in 10 states including Washington, nationwide filings are down significantly from 2012 and down 53% from their peak in 2010, reports RealtyTrac. Foreclosure filings were down 26% from 2012, representing the lowest annual total since 2007, according to the firm.

Overall foreclosure activity did increase in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Washington and Pennsylvania, and the states with the highest foreclosure rates in 2013 were Florida, Nevada, Illinois, Maryland and Ohio, RealtyTrac reports. Scheduled judicial foreclosure auctions also increased 13% in 2013 compared to 2012 to the highest level since 2010. NFS were the only foreclosure document type among the five tracked by RealtyTrac to post an increase nationwide in 2013 compared to 2012.

According to Daren Blomquist, VP of RealtyTrac, “Millions of homeowners are still living in the shadow of the massive foreclosure crisis that the country experienced over the past eight years since the housing-price bubble burst—both in the form of homes lost directly to foreclosure as well as home equity lost as a result of a flood of discounted distressed sales. But the shadow cast by the foreclosure crisis is shrinking as fewer distressed properties enter foreclosure and properties already in foreclosure are poised to exit in greater numbers in 2014 given the greater numbers of scheduled foreclosure auctions in 2013 in judicial states—which account for the bulk of US foreclosure inventory.”

Blomquist adds that the push to schedule these auctions is “certainly coming at an opportune time for the foreclosing lenders. There is unprecedented demand from institutional investors willing to pay with cash to buy at the foreclosure auction, helping to raise the value of properties with a foreclosure filing in 2013 by an average of 10% nationwide.”

As GlobeSt.com reported last week, the universe of residential properties with at least 50% equity grew from 7.4 million in third-quarter 2013 to 9.1 million during fourth-quarter 2013, according to RealtyTrac. The firm defines these properties as “equity rich.”

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