Inventories of bank-owned properties fell year over year across four Western states in July even as lenders took longer to get those properties off their books, according to the latest report from real estate data company ForeclosureRadar.

The report covers foreclosure trends in California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington and Oregon. Of the five states, only Oregon did not see its bank-owned inventory drop last month.

In California, the number of homes repossessed by lenders but not yet resold, known as bank-owned or real estate owned (REO) inventory, was down 36.4 percent to 66,000 properties last month. Banks sold REOs in 283 days on average, up from 232 days in July 2011. By contrast, homes bought by third parties at auction, usually investors, were resold in an average 138 days, up from 128 days a year ago.

Nonetheless, there are some signs the pipeline of foreclosures in the Golden State is speeding up a bit. Foreclosure starts rose 12.3 percent year over year in July to 21,175. The average number of days between the initial notice of default and the end of the foreclosure process (with the property either sold to a third party or repossessed by the bank) was 276 days last month (equivalent to about nine months), down from 310 days (about 10 months) a year ago.

Among the California homes in the foreclosure process whose fates were decided in July, most (10,398) experienced a cancellation of the process due to a successful loan modification or short sale, among other possible reasons. The number of properties that went back to the bank as REOs declined 54.2 percent on an annual basis to 4,512. Foreclosure sales to third parties fell 6.6 percent to 3,269.

In Arizona, foreclosure starts fell 28.2 percent year over year in July, to 4,433. Foreclosure cancellations were down 4.4 percent annually, to 3,575. The number of properties that went back to the bank as REOs decreased 33.8 percent year over year, to 2,191. Those sold to third parties rose 3 percent on an annual basis, to 1,630.

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