The number of homes in some stage of the foreclosure process fell 21 percent in February from a year ago, to 1.2 million, according to data aggregator CoreLogic.

February saw 54,000 homes lost to foreclosure, down 7 percent from January and 19 percent from a year ago. That’s still close to three times monthly rate of completed foreclosures before the housing bust, when an average of 21,000 homes completed the foreclosure process each month, CoreLogic noted.

CoreLogic estimates that lenders have completed foreclosure proceedings on 4.2 million U.S. homes since September, 2008.

"The drop in delinquencies and foreclosure starts will help support a resurgence in the home purchase market this year and next," said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic, in a statement.

The five states with with highest completed totals in the 12 months through February were: Florida (95,000), California (90,000), Michigan (73,000), Texas (57,000) and Georgia (49,000).

CoreLogic reported this week that the nation’s "shadow inventory" — distressed properties likely to hit market in the months ahead — dropped 18 percent year-over-year in January to 2.2 million homes.

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