IRVINE, Calif., March 1 (UPI) -- Nearly a quarter of all U.S. home sales in the fourth quarter involved distressed properties in some stage of foreclosure, private firm RealtyTrac said.
RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for properties in foreclosure, said 24 percent of home sales in October through December involved homes either owned by lenders or in some stage of financial distress.
The percentage of home sales involving pre-foreclosure or a bank-owned home in the quarter was an increase over the 20 percent from the previous quarter, but slightly down from the 26 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010.
For the year, 907,138 homes in distress were sold, down 2 percent from 2010, the firm said. On average, 23 percent of homes sold in the year involved homes that were foreclosure-related.
The average sale involving distressed properties went for $164,944 in the fourth quarter, down 5 percent from the same quarter a year earlier, but little changed from the third quarter.
Referring to the scandal involving mishandled documents that erupted in late 2010, sales of distressed homes in the fourth quarter "continued to be slowed by questions surrounding proper foreclosure paperwork and procedures," said Brandon Moore, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac.
But the slower foreclosure processing caused by the scandal is expected to push lenders into a more aggressive position, he said.
"We expect to see foreclosure-related sales increase in 2012, particularly pre-foreclosure sales, as lenders start to more aggressively dispose of distressed assets held up by the mortgage servicing gridlock over the past 18 months," Moore said.