According to CoreLogic, the Santa Ana California based provider of information and business services, there were a total of 830,000 foreclosures nationwide in 2011 compared to 1.1 million in 2010.  The most recent monthly numbers, for December 2011, were down from foreclosures both a month earlier and in December 2010. 

There were 55,000 foreclosures during the month of December, a drop of 2,000 from the November total and a significant decrease from a year earlier when there were 67,000, a -15 percent change.  According to CoreLogic, there have been approximately 3.2 million foreclosures since the beginning of the financial crisis in September 2008.

The foreclosure inventory - the stock of homes in the process of foreclosure - also decreased on an annual and accelerating basis.  There were 1.4 million homes, 3.4 percent of all mortgaged homes in the U.S.*, in the inventory in December.  This was a drop of 8.4 percent in the inventory compared to December 2010.  The November inventory had declined on an annual basis by 5.3 percent.

The serious delinquency rate, homeowners who are 90 or more days in arrears on their mortgage payments, improved to 7.3 percent in December from 7.8 percent one year earlier but was up one basis point compared to November.

CoreLogic provides a metric that indicates the rate at which servicers are processing distressed assets.  The distressed clearing ratio is calculated by dividing the number of sales of lender-owned properties (REO) by completed foreclosures.  The higher the ratio the faster the REO inventory is clearing.  In December the ratio was 1.03; in November it was 0.94.

Mark Fleming, chief economist with CoreLogic, commented, "The inventory of foreclosed properties has begun to shrink and the pace at which properties are entering foreclosure is slowing.  While foreclosure filings are being curtailed by a variety of judicial and regulatory constraints, mortgage servicers are completing REO sales faster than they are completing foreclosures.  This is the first time in a year that REO sales have outpaced completed foreclosures and part of the reason for the decrease in the foreclosure inventory."

Of the top 100 markets tracked by CoreLogic, 34 showed an increase in the foreclosure inventory in December versus one year earlier.  In November inventories in 46 of the markets had increased.

States with the highest percentage of foreclosure inventories were Florida (11.9), New Jersey (6.4), Illinois (5.4), Nevada (5.4) and New York (4.6).

*Approximately one-third of U.S. homes are owned without a mortgage.  These properties do not enter into the calculations of distressed clearing ratios.