LOS ANGELES (AP) -- New data show that lenders took possession of fewer U.S. homes in 2012 than a year earlier, as foreclosure activity declined in about half the states.
Foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. says banks repossessed about 671,000 homes last year. That's down nearly 17 percent from around 804,000 the year before.
The trend suggests that the country's foreclosure woes are easing on a national level.
Not so at the state level, however.
The firm says foreclosure activity rose last year in 25 states, most of which have a slower foreclosure process. Foreclosure activity declined in the rest of the states, where foreclosures are more streamlined.
RealtyTrac bases foreclosure activity on the number of homes that receive at least one foreclosure-related filing.
U.S. foreclosure activity fell 3 percent last year.
Consumer finance agency finalizes mortgage rules to protect borrowers
Federal regulators have finalized rules aimed at protecting homeowners from unexpected fees and shoddy service by companies that collect their monthly mortgage payments.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Thursday it will permanently require mortgage servicing companies to provide clear monthly billing statements, warn borrowers before interest rate hikes and actively help them avoid foreclosure.
The rules are stricter in some respects than a proposal outlined by the agency in August. For example, companies may not proceed with the foreclosure process while they work with borrowers on steps that could prevent foreclosure. Under the current rules, borrowers can lose their homes to foreclosure while they are in the process of seeking lower monthly payments.
The rules are part of a sweeping overhaul of mortgage rules by the agency.