Riverside County's foreclosure activity continued its downward spiral last month as the number of properties being repossessed dropped significantly on an annualized level.
A total 1,660 mortgage default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions were recorded countywide in February, translating to 1 in 479 households in some stage of foreclosure, according to Irvine-based RealtyTrac. The number of filings was down 3 percent from January -- and 65 percent lower compared to February 2012.
A sharp downward shift in foreclosure activity began last fall as new foreclosure remediation legislation went into effect. The county's home losses are now at pre-recession levels.
The Murrieta market mirrors the county trend—for the most part.
In February, the number of properties that received a foreclosure filing in Murrieta's 92562 zip code was 11 percent lower than the previous month and 51 percent lower than the same time last year, according to Realty Trac. Home sales for January 2013 were down 19 percent compared with the previous month, and up 31 percent compared with a year ago. The median sales price of a non-distressed home was $257,000. The median sales price of a foreclosure home was $259,000, or 1 percent higher than non-distressed home sales.
However, in Murrieta's 92563 zip code, Realty Trac's data showed the number of properties that received a foreclosure filing last month was 13 percent higher than the previous month, though 62 percent lower than the same time last year. Home sales for January 2013 were down 22 percent compared with the previous month, and up 12 percent compared with a year ago. The median sales price of a non-distressed home was $278,750. The median sales price of a foreclosure home was $256,500, or 8 percent lower than non-distressed home sales.
"At a high level, the U.S. foreclosure inferno has been effectively contained and should be reduced to a slow burn in the next two years," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.
He said "flare-ups" are still possible in states where there's a growing backlog of foreclosure starts delayed by court actions, including Maryland and Washington.
Nationally, 154,281 properties slipped into foreclosure in February, according to RealtyTrac. The activity represented a 2 percent uptick from January but a 25 percent decline from February 2012.
California ranked No. 13 in U.S. foreclosure activity last month, with 18,003 properties going into default, or 1 in 757, according to RealtyTrac. The figure was a half percent below the number of filings in January and 62 percent less than a year ago.
Florida had the highest foreclosure rate nationwide, with 1 in 282 households in default in February.
—City News Service and Maggie Avants contributed to this report.