The decline is modest compared with the decline from 2010. From the 2.9 million properties involved in foreclosures in 2010, filings have dropped by 36 percent, the firm said.
Including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, there were a total of 2,304,941 foreclosure filings reported on 1,836,634 U.S. properties in 2012, RealtyTrac said.
With those numbers, 1.39 percent of all housing units -- one out of every 72 -- were involved in a foreclosure filing in the year, a drop from 1.45 percent in 2011 and from 2.23 percent in 2010.
With many filings derailed by the foreclosure mills controversy that surfaced in 2010, states that require a judicial review for a bank repossession were still catching up with a backlog of foreclosures. As such, in 2012, foreclosure activity increased in 25 states from 2011 -- 20 of which require judicial reviews. In New Jersey, foreclosures increased by 55 percent in the year. In Florida, they rose by 53 percent.
The foreclosure mills controversy involved banks subcontracting foreclosure reviews to firms that were labeled "foreclosure mills," because they processed them so quickly it was judged the banks were cheating homeowners on due process. Several major banks pulled back from proceeding with foreclosures until agreements were reached with prosecutors on how to repay mortgage owners.
In April 2012, five major banks reached a $26 billion deal with prosecutors to settle charges of foreclosure abuses. More recently, 10 U.S. banks reached an $8.5 billion deal and Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs on Wednesday struck a $557 million deal to settle foreclosure abuse charges.
The increase in foreclosures in judicial review states was offset by declines in states where foreclosures are handled out of court.
Foreclosure activity dropped in 25 states, 19 of which do not require judicial reviews. In Nevada, foreclosure activity dropped 57 percent. In Utah, foreclosures declined by 40 percent, RealtyTrac said.