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Last Year’s Foreclosures Hit Lowest Total Since 2007

In the past year, the national foreclosure rate declined each month by at least 20 percent from where it had been the year before, according to the CoreLogic Market National Foreclosure Report from December. Additionally, the 12-month sum of completed foreclosures hit its lowest level since 2007.

The progress is encouraging — about 837,000 homes in the United States were in a stage of foreclosure in December, down from almost 1.2 million in December 2012 — but that’s still a lot of homeowners struggling to pay for their homes.

CoreLogic’s report puts the serious delinquency rate among U.S. mortgages at 5 percent in December, its lowest level since November 2008. Quarterly data from Experian-Oliver Wyman Market Intelligence Reports and Experian’s IntelliView tool also show a smaller share of mortgages were delinquent. In the final quarter of 2013, the percentage of mortgages that were more than 90 days past due dropped from the previous year’s and the previous quarter’s levels, the reports said. The delinquency rate declined to 2.52 percent, down from 2.74 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 and 3.26 percent at the same time in 2011.

“Clearly, 2013 was a transitional year for residential property in the United States,” Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic, said in the foreclosure report. ”Higher home prices and lower shadow inventory levels, together with a slowly improving economy, are hopeful signals that we are turning a long-awaited corner. The housing market should continue to heal in 2014, but we expect progress to remain very slow.”

Mortgage originations had been increasing year over year since the first quarter of 2012, but that momentum faltered in the third quarter of 2013, when new loans declined by about 110,000 from the previous year, according to Experian. Fourth-quarter data isn’t yet available.

Over the last several months, property values and interest rates have generally increased, and at the start of the year new qualified mortgage rules changed the lending landscape. In light of such changes, prospective home buyers searching for home loans should focus on presenting lenders with strong credit histories and well-documented finances to make sure they’re applying for affordable mortgages. It’s important to go into the home buying process with a solid understanding of your credit profile — checking your credit reports and credit scores, using a tool like the free Credit Report Card, are simple ways to stay on top of it — so you can advocate for yourself as an informed consumer.

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