US foreclosures fall to lowest rate since July 2006: RealtyTrac

A 'bank-owned' sign sits outside a foreclosed home in the Mountain's Edge neighborhood of Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2010.
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A 'bank-owned' sign sits outside a foreclosed home in the Mountain's Edge neighborhood of Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2010.

Foreclosure activity in the United States fell last month to the lowest rate in nearly nine years as banks started the process on fewer homes and scheduled fewer auctions than in the previous month, industry firm RealtyTrac said on Thursday.

A total of 101,938 properties across the United States were at some stage of the foreclosure process, which includes foreclosure notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, the group said.

That drove overall foreclosure activity down 4.3 percent from January and down 9.4 percent from the same time last year.

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"Given that August 2006 was the peak of the housing bubble, this eight-and-a-half year low in foreclosure activity is a significant milestone and a sign that nationwide foreclosure activity is on track to return to historic norms this year—and is possibly even headed below historic norms given the skinny-jeans-tight lending standards over the past five years, ''RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist said in a statement.

Lenders started the foreclosure process on 48,079 properties in February, down 4.9 percent from last month. That was a 7.3 percent decline from February 2014.

A total of 45,880 properties were scheduled for foreclosure auctions last month, a 13.4 percent drop from January, and down 3.9 percent from a year ago.

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Bank repossessions however climbed last month as lenders reclaimed 9.2 percent more properties than in January. A total of 24,305 homes were repossessed in February. Still, repossessions were down 19.8 percent from year-ago levels.

Maryland saw its foreclosure activity drop 1 percent from a year earlier, but had the highest foreclosure rates in the country, followed by Nevada and Florida.