US home foreclosure filings decreased 8% in September from a 32-month peak in August, though they are still nearly double their year-ago levels, a report said on Thursday.
Foreclosure filings in September fell to 223,538, representing one in every 557 households, led by California, Florida and Ohio, according to RealtyTrac, an online market of foreclosure properties.
The level has climbed 99% from a year ago as the deepening housing slump hurt homeowners and investors with risky mortgages and left them unable to refinance to loans with easier terms.
Decreases in September were seen across 39 states, suggesting a broad retreat may be underway, RealtyTrac said. But housing forecasts are grim, and causes behind foreclosures such as rising payments on adjustable-rate mortgages are still being played out.
"It's too early to tell if September's numbers represent a one-month lull or if they could signify that more buyers and investors are getting back in the market and snatching up discounted foreclosure properties," said James Saccacio, RealtyTrac's chief executive officer, in a statement.
Curbing foreclosures has become a priority of many mortgage companies, which under guidance of the US Treasury on Wednesday formed a coalition to help hard-pressed homeowners.
Mortgage servicers are being pushed to alter existing loans where possible to prevent foreclosure which can be more costly for lenders and investors.
Foreclosure filings recorded by RealtyTrac include default notices, auction sales notices and bank repossessions.
Nevada, Florida and California posted the highest foreclosure rates even as their overall levels declined, the company said. Illinios was the only state among the top 10 in total filings that saw an increase in foreclosures in September versus August, it said.