The number of U.S. properties involved in foreclosure fell to a five-year low in September, an online real estate firm said Thursday.
RealtyTrac said in September, 180,427 properties were either sent default notices, scheduled for auction or taken over by a bank, down 7 percent from the 193,508 properties in August and 16 percent from September 2011.
The month's total was the lowest since July 2007, the summer before the last recession officially began.
The quarterly total was also the lowest since the fourth quarter of 2007, RealtyTrac said.
From the second quarter, foreclosures were down 5 percent and from the third quarter of 2011, foreclosures were down 13 percent.
The national data on foreclosure has not spiked the way RealtyTrac had been predicting, the company said in a statement.
An upward surge was expected after a slowdown prompted by revelations of widespread legal abuses that ended with a $26 billion settlement with major U.S. banks that had, in general, tried to rush foreclosures through the legal system and were found to be taking too many shortcuts.
Once the case was settled, RealtyTrac expected a sudden rush of foreclosures backed up in the legal system.
"We've been waiting for the other foreclosure shoe to drop since late 2010, when questionable foreclosure practices slowed activity to a crawl in many areas, but that other shoe is instead being carefully lowered to the floor and therefore making little noise in the housing market -- at least at a national level," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.
"Make no mistake, however, the other shoe is dropping quite loudly in certain states, primarily those where foreclosure activity was held back the most last year," he said.
"Non-judicial foreclosure states such as California, Georgia, Texas, Arizona and Michigan" have avoided the spike and even seen steady declines in foreclosure activity, RealtyTrac noted.
Other states -- among them Florida, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey and New York -- require foreclosures to go through court systems. Those states have "continued to buck the national trend, registering substantial year-over-year increases in foreclosure activity in September and the third quarter," the firm said.
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