Foreclosure activity in the U.S. declined 9.39% from February 2014 to February 2015, with one in every 1,295 housing units in some stage of foreclosure last month. That's the lowest the national foreclosure rate has been since July 2006, according to RealtyTrac's monthly report on the foreclosure market.
The analysis looks at how many homes have a foreclosure filing — a default notice, scheduled auction or bank repossession — and compares those figures to those of the previous month and year. Despite the national decrease, 24 states recorded a year-over-year increase in foreclosure activity.
Half of the states with the highest foreclosure rates in February experienced a decline in foreclosure activity, and foreclosure-ridden Florida had the biggest drop. On the flip side, RealtyTrac recorded two of the states with triple-digit jumps in the foreclosure rate, but that may be a result of changes to data collection in some areas (states including these areas are marked with an asterisk). Here are the 10 states with the highest foreclosure rates in February.
10. North Carolina*
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 1,088 housing units
Change from February 2014: +100.2%
The foreclosure data in North Carolina was affected by RealtyTrac's effort to expand the areas included in its report, which means the increase may be less than a 100% jump, the report notes. Regardless of how much foreclosure activity increased from last year, it was high on the national scale last month.
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 1,000
Change from February 2014: -5.9%
Overall foreclosure activity in Ohio from last year, partly driven by a drop in default notices. More properties were repossessed last month than they were at the same time in 2014 — a 22.56% increase in repossession.
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 957
Change from February 2014: +11.23%
Defaults are up in Delaware. The 202 Delaware properties that entered the foreclosure process in February represented a 32.02% increase from February 2014, despite a 2.88% decline from January 2015.
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 906
Change from February 2014: -10.51%
Overall foreclosure activity in Illinois is down from last year, but an increase in foreclosure starts indicates Illinois will maintain its high foreclosure rate for a while. Repossessions are down 19.29% from last year, but foreclosure starts are up 15.84%.
6. New Jersey
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 895
Change from February 2014: -17.21%
New Jersey had either the first- and second-highest foreclosure rate for several months in 2014, and it had the largest increase in foreclosure activity last year. Its drop to 6th in February represents a huge improvement from last year's surge.
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 877
Change from February 2014: +111.05%
Like North Carolina, Idaho included some areas affected by RealtyTrac's data collection changes. It's also sparsely populated, so just a few new foreclosures can translate into large foreclosure rate shifts. Still, it's noteworthy that Idaho has joined this top 10 list.
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 871
Change from February 2014: +22.89%
The share of properties with a foreclosure filing for the first time (foreclosure starts) spiked 104.17% in a year, which is largely responsible for the overall increase in foreclosure activity.
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 570
Change from February 2014: -34.69%
Of the 10 states with the highest foreclosure rates, Florida recorded the largest decrease in foreclosure activity from last year. Dropping to third on this list is a pretty big deal for a state that almost always had the top spot in 2014.
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 569
Change from February 2014: +11.84%
There's a backlog of foreclosures in Nevada: There was a 30.6% drop in completed foreclosures from last year, while foreclosure starts increased 153.29%.
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 564
Change from February 2014: -0.87%
Maryland continues to work through the large foreclosure inventory it has had for a while, but the large drops in New Jersey and Florida foreclosures pushed this state with a steady flow of foreclosures to the top of the list.
Going through foreclosure can be emotionally and financially devastating, so don't ignore signs that you may not be able to afford your mortgage payments. If you're proactive about rearranging your finances or reaching out to your lender to avoid foreclosure, you may also save yourself from severe credit damage that will last for years after you lose your home. If you want to see how your mortgage impacts your credit, you can track your credit scores for free on Credit.com.
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