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Number of homes in Western Pennsylvania behind in foreclosure plunge amid recovery

| Thursday, May 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
In this Monday, May 6, 2013, photo, a home is for sale in Mt. Lebanon, Pa. A resurgent housing market, rising home values and steady job gains are helping more U.S. homeowners stay on top of their mortgage payments. The percentage of mortgage holders at least two months behind on their payments fell by 21 percent in the first three months of this year versus the same period in 2012, credit reporting agency TransUnion said Wednesday, May 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The number of homes in foreclosure in the Pittsburgh region declined in April from a year ago, a sign that the improving economy and job gains are giving residents the ability to make their mortgage payments.

The seven-county region last month had 808 homes in foreclosure — from mortgage default notices to bank reposessions — compared with 920 in March and 924 in April 2012, real estate information company Realty Trac Inc. reported on Wednesday.

In addition, fewer homes received a notice of a pending foreclosure sale, which bodes well for this region, experts said.

“The primary thing that drives foreclosures is job loss,” said Mark Price, a labor economist at the Keystone Research Center, Harrisburg.

But the seven-county Pittsburgh region added 3,400 jobs between March 2012 and March 2013. Local employment data for April are not yet available.

“So I'd expect foreclosures, which are an indicator of financial stress that families are undergoing, would decline,” said Price.

Lenders repossessed 130 homes in the Pittsburgh region in April, far fewer than the 202 in April 2012, although higher than the 88 in March of this year.

“These trends indicate that mortgage (lenders and servicers) are moving the backlog of distressed loans further into the foreclosure pipeline in Pittsburgh,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

Meantime, notices of home foreclosure sales in the Pittsburgh region dropped to 315 last month from 424 in March and from 385 in April 2012. That foreshadows fewer foreclosure sales and bank repossessions ahead.

Mortgage default filings, which represent the earliest stage of a foreclosure, rose only slightly in the Pittsburgh region to 363 in April from 359 in March and from 337 in April 2012.

A separate report on Wednesday from TransUnion, the credit reporting agency, showed the percentage of homeowners at least two months behind on their mortgage payments fell 21 percent in the January-March quarter, compared with the same period in 2012. That was the sharpest year-over-year decrease in mortgage delinquencies since at least 1992.

“We certainly expected improvement this quarter as the housing sector is in recovery, but the magnitude of the improvement was unexpected,” Tim Martin, TransUnion's group vice president of U.S. housing, said in a statement.

Thomas Olson is a Trib Total Media staff writer. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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