SALT LAKE CITY — The number of homeowners losing their houses to foreclosure in Utah and around the country is at its lowest rate in a decade, a new report states.
ATTOM Data Solutions, a national property database, Thursday released its Year-End 2016 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report showing the volume of foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — declined 14 percent from 2015 to the lowest level since 2006.
The report indicates that 0.70 percent of all U.S. housing units had at least one foreclosure filing last year, the lowest annual national foreclosure rate since 2006, when 0.58 percent of housing units had at least one default filing, said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions, the new parent company of RealtyTrac.
In Utah, the rate of foreclosure registered at 0.65 percent — down 7.21 percent from 2015 and nearly 80 percent from 2010.
The year-end foreclosure report compiled data on unique properties with foreclosure filings during the year in more than 2,500 counties nationwide, with address-level data on more than 23 million foreclosure filings historically also available for license or customized reporting, Blomquist said.
The report included new data for December, when foreclosure filings decreased 1 percent from the previous month and were down 17 percent from a year ago — the 15th straight month of year-over-year decline in foreclosure activity.
“The national foreclosure rate stayed within an historically normal range for the third consecutive year in 2016, even as banks continued to clear out legacy foreclosures from the last housing bubble, particularly in the final quarter of the year,” Blomquist said.
Improved practices by mortgage lenders were among the main reasons for the increased stability in the market following the financial meltdown of the housing sector, he said.
Policies implemented through congressional legislation — such as the Dodd-Frank Act — helped “shore up” the housing market, resulting in far fewer defaults in recent years, Blomquist explained.
However, President-elect Donald Trump has said he might advocate repealing some regulations to remove some constraints on lending, which Blomquist said could potentially be of concern in the short term.
“Loosening lending isn’t inherently bad because (some critics) are saying credit is currently too tight, making homes unaffordable for people who should be able to buy homes,” he said. “The problem is the pendulum tends to swing too far back in the other direction and gives credit to people who shouldn’t have it.”
Blomquist said there is no imminent threat to market stability, but sweeping changes by the new administration could create unintended consequences and a possible repeat of history if done unwisely.
“Foreclosure is an indicator of the health of the market that people should keep an eye on,” he said.
A healthy market is historically one in which the average default rate is below 1 percent, he said.
Meanwhile, foreclosure filings have declined for three consecutive years, both nationally and locally, Blomquist noted.
“(In Utah), it was 0.99 percent in 2014, then went down to 0.88 percent in 2015, then 0.65 in 2016,” he said. “Nationwide, in 2014 it was 0.85 percent, it was 0.82 percent in 2015, and 0.70 percent in 2016.”
According to the report, 12 states and Washington, D.C., registered increases in overall foreclosure activity in 2016 — counter to the national trend. The highest increase in defaults was Delaware, which climbed 45 percent, followed by Rhode Island at 29 percent, Massachusetts and Connecticut up 21 percent, and Hawaii rising 20 percent.
Among 216 metropolitan statistical areas with a population of at least 200,000 residents, 53 posted year-over-year increases in foreclosure activity last year, led by Provo-Orem, up 30 percent.