Foreclosures in Ventura County and California are slowing rapidly, according to the latest figures from RealtyTrac.

In February, for the first time since December 2006, California was not among the states with the 10 highest foreclosure rates. Overall foreclosure activity in California dropped year over year for the 15th straight month, ranking 13th in the nation.

There were 18,003 filings in California in February, a decline of almost 63 percent from February 2012 and a rate of one in 757 homes. Bank repossessions in the state fell 49 percent from last year.

In Ventura County, the number of foreclosure-related filings, such as notices of default and bank repossessions, rose slightly from January to February. But the number dropped 65 percent from a year earlier — from 1,037 in February 2012 to 362 this February. RealtyTrac, an Irvine-based online marketplace for foreclosure properties and real estate data, reported foreclosure filings in the county totaled 354 in January.

Mark Schniepp, director of the California Economic Forecast in Santa Barbara, said the new data matched his expectations.

“We forecast 50 to 60,000 foreclosures this year in California, compared with 96,000 last year, and it may even be more than that,” Schniepp said. “Ventura County is keeping in line with the state.”

“As home prices rise and banks are more willing to work out short sales, it curtails the number of bank repossessions,” he said. ‘The main issue now is not distressed properties but a lack of inventory, but as prices rise, that will get cured.”

U.S. foreclosure filings dropped 25 percent year over year, with a total of 154,281 filings in February. That’s one in 849 housing units.

However, the number of homes entering the foreclosure process nationwide rose 10 percent after three consecutive monthly decreases.

Foreclosure starts increased from the previous month in 32 states and rose from a year earlier in 16 states, including Nevada (up 334 percent), Maryland (up 319 percent), Washington (up 172 percent), New York (up 139 percent) and New Jersey (up 70 percent).

“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.

“But dangerous foreclosure flare-ups are still popping up in states where foreclosures have been delayed by a lengthy court process or by new legislation making it more difficult to foreclose outside of the court system. Foreclosure starts have been steadily building in those states over the last several months and likely will end up as bank repossessions or short sales later this year.”

Florida posted the nation’s highest state foreclosure rate for the sixth consecutive month in February, reporting one in 282 housing units had a foreclosure filing during the month.

Florida cities accounted for seven of the nation’s 10 highest metro foreclosure rates in February, led by the Miami, Orlando, Ocala, Tampa and Palm Bay metro areas.

The number of Nevada homes going into the foreclosure process in February increased 334 percent from a year ago to a 17-month high, keeping the state’s foreclosure rate the second-highest nationwide for the fifth month in a row. One in 320 Nevada housing units had a foreclosure filing in February, more than twice the national average.

Illinois, Ohio, Washington, Maryland, Arizona, Georgia, Utah and Michigan round out the top 10 states.

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