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Sales of bank-owned homes hit 5-year low

LOS ANGELES — Sales of bank-owned homes have plunged to a five-year low, the latest evidence that the nation’s foreclosure woes are easing as the U.S. housing market recovery gains momentum.

For the January-March quarter, sales of bank-owned homes fell 16 percent from the previous three months and were down 23 percent versus the first quarter of 2012, foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

The last time sales of bank-owned homes were lower was in the first quarter of 2008, the firm said.

Sales of homes in a stage of the foreclosure process also declined, falling 20 percent from the October-December quarter and the first quarter of last year.

Combined, bank-owned homes and properties already in the foreclosure process also accounted for a smaller share of U.S. home sales in the first quarter. They made up 21 percent of all home sales, down from 25 percent in the first three months of 2012, RealtyTrac said.

Foreclosure-related sales’ share of all U.S. home sales peaked in the first quarter of 2009 at 45 percent.

The decline in foreclosure-related sales comes as sales of previously occupied homes have risen nearly 10 percent over the past 12 months. Greater demand and a scarcity of available homes for sale in many markets have helped propel U.S. home prices upward.

All told, 190,121 U.S. bank-owned homes or properties in some stage of the foreclosure process were sold in the first quarter.

Georgia had the biggest share of foreclosure-related sales at 35 percent, followed by Illinois with 32 percent and California with 30 percent. Foreclosure-related sales made up less than 10 percent of all home sales in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, the firm said.



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