The number of new home foreclosures fell last month in Linn and Johnson counties, the state of Iowa and the United States, according to a report from RealtyTrac, an online foreclosure marketplace.
A total of 112 foreclosures were filed last month in Linn County, down 21.1 percent from 142 in February, but 34.9 percent higher than the 83 foreclosures filed in March 2012.
In Johnson County, 23 home foreclosures were filed last month, down 8 percent from 25 in February and 39.5 percent below 38 filed in March 2012.
For Iowa as a whole, 1,095 foreclosure filings were recorded in March, down 30.9 percent from 1,585 in February and 34.1 percent below the 1,663 foreclosures filed in March 2012.
Bank repossessions in the state accounted for 368 of the homes placed in foreclosure last month.
Meanwhile nationwide, foreclosure filings were reported on 152,500 properties in March — down 23 percent from 198,853 in March 2012, and 1.15 percent below the 154,281 foreclosures filed in February, according to RealtyTrac.
For the first quarter, there were foreclosure filings for 442,117 properties, the lowest result since the second quarter of 2007. Despite declines, foreclosures remain higher than pre-bubble levels.
“Although the overall national foreclosure trend continues to head lower, late-blooming foreclosures are bolting higher in some local markets where aggressive foreclosure prevention efforts in previous years are wearing off,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac.
“More recent foreclosure prevention efforts in other states have drastically increased the average time to foreclose, which could result in a similar outbreak of delayed foreclosures down the road in those states."
Properties repossessed by lenders in the first quarter took an average of 477 days to complete the foreclosure process, up from 414 days in the previous quarter and a record high since RealtyTrac began tracking foreclosure completion time in the first quarter of 2007.
Foreclosures have been on the decline over the last two years as homeowners pursue alternatives such as short sales, in which they sell their house for less than what they owe and the bank agrees to forgive the balance. Banks prefer short sales over foreclosure and the deals have less of a negative impact on a homeowner's credit score.
Mortgage rates in the United States fell for a second week, reducing borrowing costs as more homeowners seek to refinance into less expensive loans. The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.43 percent in the week that ended Thursday, down from 3.54 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac.
The average 15- year mortgage rate dropped to 2.65 percent from 2.74 percent.