RealtyTrac released its monthly data on foreclosure activity in the U.S. for February today. The news isn't great, but it does provide a glimmer of optimism. Foreclosures continue to increase year-over-year, but last month saw the smallest annual increase since January 2006. As with all February economic data this year, weather might have been a factor, but is it entirely to blame for the decline?
There were 308,524 foreclosure filings in February. That's 2% fewer than in January, but still 6% higher than a year prior. RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio explains his take:
"The 6 percent year-over-year increase we saw in February was the smallest annual increase we've seen since January 2006, when we began calculating year-over-year increases, but it still marked the 50th consecutive month of year-over-year increases in foreclosure activity," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. "This leveling of the foreclosure trend is not necessarily evidence that fewer homeowners are in distress and at risk for foreclosure, but rather that foreclosure prevention programs, legislation and other processing delays are in effect capping monthly foreclosure activity -- albeit at a historically high level that will likely continue for an extended period.
"In addition, severe winter weather appears to have temporarily slowed the processing of foreclosure records in some Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states."
While it's good to see foreclosures slowing, they're still pretty bad. As Saccacio says, it's still the 50th consecutive month when we've seen more foreclosures than in the prior year. That's not particularly comforting.