Chart of the Day: Foreclosure Sale Discount by State

Although banks might be foreclosing at a slower pace, deep discounts remain available for buyers willing to scoop up those homes. The average foreclosure discount in the U.S. was 27%, according to new data released by foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac. That nearly matches the fourth quarter's discount of 28%, despite banks foreclosing on fewer homes this year. The discount varied widely by state, however.

Here's a chart showing the average discount that the sale of a property in some stage of foreclosure provided over sales of non-defaulted properties in the 38 states RealtyTrac tracks (click to enlarge):

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You might find these results a little bit surprising: there isn't much correlation between a state's foreclosure concentration ranking and how deep the discount was on its foreclosure sales. For example, the third and fourth biggest discounts were in Kentucky and Maryland, which was around 39%. Yet, these states were ranked 41st and 35th, respectively, by foreclosure density.

Outliers can be found on the other side of the chart as well. In Utah, people actually paid 2% more for foreclosures compared to non-foreclosures. Yet the state was ranked as having the 4th highest rate of foreclosures in the nation. Even Nevada, the state with the most severe foreclosure problem, had a foreclosure discount well below the national average, ranked as the 7th lowest discount shown on the chart.

One possible explanation to such an odd result could be how well developed the markets are in each of these states. For example, perhaps Kentucky had such a high foreclosure discount because there was very little competitive bidding for the few foreclosures it had. Meanwhile, Nevada residents are well aware of the state's large number of foreclosures. So its market for foreclosure sales may be more competitive, driving down the discount.

This potential explanation should be paired with the broader economic status of each state to determine why one had a deeper foreclosure discount than another. If a state's economy is recovering better than another state's economy, for example, then it's plausible that home buying demand is stronger in the state with a healthier economy. More buyers also means more competition, which should result in a smaller discount.

This might help to explain a state like Louisiana's ranking on the list. It had the 10th deepest discount, but was 30th in the nation in terms of foreclosure density. It is one of the few states with an unemployment rate that continues to steadily grow, however. In this case, its home buyer pool is likely relatively small due to its economic troubles, which is having an adverse impact on foreclosure sales.

It should be noted that the chart above includes the sale of homes in any stage of foreclosure, including those having received a default notice, having been listed for auction, or having been seized by a bank. The father along in the process that a home gets, the more the discount generally grows. Last quarter, the average discount for bank owned properties was 35%, which is quite a bit higher than the 27% average foreclosure sales price that includes all stages.

During the quarter, RealtyTrac calculated that 158,434 homes were sold in some stage of foreclosure. They accounted for 28% of all home sales over the period. Despite the lower number of foreclosures, they're still having a huge impact on the housing market.