There were 150,864 properties involved in foreclosure in the month, one out of every 869 U.S. housing units, the firms said. Foreclosures includes several levels of distress including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions.
RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist said a new homeowner protection law in California that took effect at the first of the year, "profoundly altered," what he called the "foreclosure landscape."
The law, called a Homeowners Bill of Rights, mandates borrowers have a single contact point for all issues related to a mortgage in distress and imposes a fine of $7,500 per loan for lenders in California for unverified document filings related to foreclosures.
"As a result, the downward foreclosure trend in California accelerated into hyperspeed," Blomquist said.
Due to the law, California did not lead the nation in foreclosure filings for the first time since January 2007 when the housing bubble burst.
The monthly tracking report also found foreclosure starts down 11 percent December to January and 20 percent lower than January 2012, reaching a 79-month low.
Bank repossessions declined 5 percent from December and 24 percent from January 2012, also reaching a multiyear low. Bank repossessions have not been this low since February 2008, RealtyTrac said.
The statistics were pushed by a sharp drop in foreclosure starts in California -- down 62 percent from December and down 75 percent from January 2012, the firm said.