The number of U.S. homes lost to foreclosure dropped for the fifth month in September, with real estate data aggregator CoreLogic counting 57,000 completed foreclosures in a monthly foreclosure report released today.

That’s a 31.3 percent decrease from a year ago, and 3.4 percent less than August’s upwardly-revised total of 59,000. By comparison, for a span of six years before the housing crisis, from 2000 to 2006, completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 per month, the report noted.

"Homes lost to foreclosure in September 2012 are down 50 percent since the peak month in September 2010 and 22 percent less than the beginning of the year," said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic.

As of the end of September, CoreLogic counted 1.4 million homes — 3.3 percent of all U.S. homes with a mortgage — that were in some stage of the foreclosure process, a 6.7 percent drop from the same time a year ago.

Not all homes that enter the foreclosure process are lost by their owners. Some are able to get current on their loans or negotiate a loan modification or short sale.

The 57,000 foreclosures completed in September brings the number of homes that have gone all the way through the foreclosure process since September 2008 to 3.9 million, CoreLogic said.

"The continuing downward trend in foreclosures along with a gradual clearing of the shadow inventory are signs of stabilization and improvement in the housing market," said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic.

The report shows that nearly half (47.7 percent) of the 763,589 foreclosures completed in the 12 months through September occurred in just five states: California (108,000), Florida (92,000), Texas (59,000), Georgia (55,000), and Michigan (51,000).

States with most foreclosures in the last 12 months, September 2012

State Number of foreclosures
California 108,000
Florida 92,000
Texas 59,000
Georgia 55,000
Michigan 51,000

Source: CoreLogic

Florida leads all U.S. states with 11.5 percent of its mortgaged homes in some stage of foreclosure, according to the report. Other states topping the list, in order, are: New Jersey (7.3 percent), New York (5.3 percent), Illinois (5.2 percent) and Nevada (4.9 percent). All but Nevada are judicial foreclosure states, where loan servicers have had difficulty pushing homes through the foreclosure process because of "robo-signing" issues

States with highest percentage of mortgaged homes in some stage of foreclosure, September 2012

State Percentage of mortgaged homes in foreclosure
Florida 11.5%
New Jersey 7.3%
New York 5.3%
Illinois 5.2%
Nevada 4.9%

Source: CoreLogic

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