CoreLogic presented more evidence today that the foreclosure epidemic in the U.S., while still a serious concern, is rapidly improving.  There were 56,000 completed foreclosures in the U.S. in December compared to 71,000 in December 2011, a decrease of 21 percent and there were 2,000 fewer foreclosures in December than in November.  As a point of reference there were an average of 21,000 foreclosures completed each month in what might be considered a "normal" period from 2000 to 2006, CoreLogic said.

During 2012 there were 767,446 completed foreclosures or one in every 53 active mortgages in the country compared to 830,000 completed foreclosures in 2011.  Since the financial crisis began in September 2008 there have been approximately 4.1 million homes lost to foreclosure.

The foreclosure inventory is also declining rapidly.  This measure of the number of homes in some stage of foreclosure declined 19.5 percent year over year, from 1.5 million in December 2011 to 1.2 million.  Month over month, the national foreclosure inventory was down 4.2 percent and at the end of December represented 3 percent of all homes with a mortgage.

"The most encouraging foreclosure trend reported here is that the inventory of foreclosed properties is almost 20 percent smaller than a year ago," said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. "This big improvement indicates we are working toward resolving the backlog of the most distressed assets in the shadow inventory."

"The rate of foreclosures continues to trend down, albeit at a slower rate as we exit 2012," said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. "This trend should continue into 2013 and is another positive signal that the gradual healing process in the housing market is gaining traction."

Five states accounted for almost half of all completed foreclosures in the country.  Over the 12 months that ended in December California had 100,000, Florida 98,000, Michigan 74,000, Texas 57,000 and Georgia 49,000. 

The five states with the highest foreclosure inventory as a percentage of all mortgaged homes were: Florida (10.1 percent), New Jersey (7.0 percent), New York (5.1 percent), Nevada (4.7 percent) and Illinois (4.5 percent).

It is interesting to note that all of the top five states for completed foreclosures except Florida are non-judicial foreclosure states while all of the states with the largest inventories except Nevada use primarily a judicial foreclosure process.