U.S. property foreclosures at 10-year low in 2016

Foreclosure proceedings affected nearly a million U.S. homes and other real estate last year, down 14 percent from 2015 and down 70 percent from the worst of the housing crisis in 2009, a report released Thursday shows.

Foreclosures hit a 10-year low and property owners in all but 15 states experienced fewer of the early stages of foreclosure, usually begun after owners have missed four mortgage payments, according to the report by ATTOM Data Solutions, formerly called RealtyTrac.

Final repossessions of properties also dropped overall, but did increase in 21 states and the District of Columbia, including Massachusetts, Alabama, New York, Virginia and New Jersey.

Daren Blomquist, spokesman for the Irvine, California, data company, said just over half of the foreclosures that did take place were related to the housing crisis, which began in 2008 amid turmoil in the financial markets and the bursting of a years-long bubble in U.S. real estate prices.

Altogether in the United States last year, about 379,000 owners lost their property to banks under foreclosure, down from 1.05 million in 2009 at the height of the mortgage and housing crisis.

Another 479,000 properties were under the early stages of foreclosure, which do not always lead to repossession. That is down from a peak of 2.14 million in the early stages in 2009.

In some states last year, including Hawaii, New Jersey and Nevada, nearly two-thirds of the foreclosures were related to the financial crisis, as banks slowly worked their way through a backlog of cases and consumers ran out of protections, Blomquist said.

Many of the remaining foreclosures were related to local economic issues, he said.

Overall foreclosure activity increased in about a quarter of U.S. metropolitan areas with more than 200,000 people, the report said. Among the metro areas where properties in some stage of foreclosure increased in 2016 were Provo-Orem, Utah; Honolulu, Hawaii; Lynchburg, Virginia; Springfield, Massachusetts; and Tucson, Arizona. Foreclosures increased by about 30 percent in those areas, the report said.

Foreclosures also increased in Washington, D.C.

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