There were a total of 2,304,941 foreclosure filings in the United States in 2012 affecting 1,836,634 properties or one in every 72 residential units.  This is only a 3 percent decrease from 2011 when 1,887,777 properties received a filing but is down 36 percent from the peak year of 2010 when 2.9 million properties were affected. 

The 2012 figures along with December and 4th Quarter data were reported today by RealtyTrac, an Irvine, California company that tracks documents filed in all three stages of foreclosure:

1.  Notice of Default (NOD) and Lis Pendens (LIS). This is the first legal notification from a lender that the borrower on a mortgage loan has defaulted under the terms of their mortgage and the lender intends to foreclose unless the loan is brought current.

2.  Auction - Notice of Trustee Sale and Notice of Foreclosure Sale (NTS and NFS): if the borrower does not catch up on their payments the lender will file a notice of sale (the lender intends to sell the property). This notice is published in local paper and contains information pertaining to the date, time and subject property address.

3.   Real Estate Owned or REO properties : "REO" stands for "real estate owned" and typically refers to the inventory of real estate that banks and mortgage companies have foreclosed on and subsequently purchased through the foreclosure auction if there was no offer higher than the minimum bid. 

Foreclosure activity was up year over year in 25 states including 20 that are primarily judicial foreclosure jurisdictions.  The largest increases were in New Jersey (+55 percent), Florida (+53 percent), Connecticut (+48 percent), and Indiana (+46 percent).  Filings decreased in 25 states, 19 of which use the more streamlined non-judicial process.  The largest declines were in Nevada (-57 percent), Utah and Oregon (-40 percent) and Arizona (-33 percent.)

Florida posted the nation's highest foreclosure rate with one in 42 housing units or 3.11 percent receiving a foreclosure filing followed by Nevada (2.70 percent), Arizona (2.69 percent), and Georgia and Illinois each at 2.58 percent.

While the rate of foreclosure activity was little changed for the year, it has been steadily declining in recent months.  There were foreclosure filings on 162,511 properties in December, down 10 percent from November and were the lowest total since April 2007.  All three types of filings decreased on both a monthly and a year-over-year basis in December. 

Fourth quarter activity was the lowest since the third quarter of 2007 even though bank repossessions were up 9 percent.  There were filings on 503,462 properties, a 5 percent decrease from the third quarter and a 14 percent decrease from the fourth quarter of 2011. 

The average time to complete a foreclosure increased by 8 percent, from 348 days in the third quarter to a record high of 414 days in the fourth.  New York had the longest average time to foreclose at 1,089 days followed by New Jersey at 987 days and Florida at 853 days.

"2012 was the year of the judicial foreclosure, with foreclosure activity increasing from 2011 in 20 of the 26 states that primarily use the judicial process, and a judicial state - Florida - posting the nation's highest state foreclosure rate for the first time since the housing crisis began," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. "Meanwhile foreclosure activity continued to decline in 19 of the 24 states that use the more streamlined non-judicial foreclosure process, but there could be a backlog of delayed foreclosures building up in some of those states as well as the result of recent state legislation and court rulings that raise the bar for lenders to foreclose.

"That could mean that although we are comfortably past the peak of the foreclosure problem nationally, 2013 is likely to be book-ended by two discrete jumps in foreclosure activity," Blomquist added.  "We expect to see continued increases in judicial foreclosure states near the beginning of the year as lenders finish catching up with the backlogs in those states, and another set of increases in some non-judicial states near the end of the year as lenders adjust to the new laws and process some deferred foreclosures in those states."

As of the end of the year, more than 1.5 million homes were in some stage of foreclosure or bank-owned, up 9 percent from the end of 2011, but still 31 percent below the peak of 2.2 million at the end of 2010. Foreclosure inventory had dropped to a 57-month low of 1.3 million in May 2012, but has since risen off that 57-month low.

The largest inventory was in Florida where 305,766 properties were in some state of foreclosure or bank owned.  That is 20 percent of the national total; another 14 percent or 212,172 properties were in California's inventory.  The three big government-related housing entities Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and the Department of Housing and Urban Development owned a combined total of 26 percent of the REO in the country followed by Bank of America and Wells Fargo with 8 percent and 6 percent respectively.

Nationwide the average monthly median home price during the first 10 months of 2012 was $164,712, virtually unchanged from the same period in 2011 but during that period median prices rose in 25 states. This may in turn have helped reduce the number of seriously underwater homeowners, those who owe at least 25 percent more on their mortgages than the value of their homes, to 10.9 million at the beginning of 2013 from 12.5 million at the beginning of 2011.