- Completed foreclosure filings rose 115% in 2022 from a year before, but were down 34% from 2019.
- One of the biggest contributors to the spike in foreclosures was the end of a pandemic-era foreclosure moratorium.
- The vast majority of people in foreclosure have positive equity, which they can use to refinance or sell their property—a trend that seems likely to continue in 2023.
- States with the highest foreclosure rates include Illinois, New Jersey, and Delaware.
- States with the lowest foreclosure rates include South Dakota, Vermont, and North Dakota.
When a mortgage borrower can no longer pay back the loan, the final result is foreclosure . It’s a tough situation for any homeowner, resulting in the loss of their home and, potentially, years of mortgage payments.
On a larger scale, the foreclosure rate across states and the country as a whole can provide insight into the overall economic landscape. An increase in foreclosures, for example, can signify problems with the labor market or a looming recession.
Foreclosure Rate Trends
Foreclosure rates more than doubled in 2022 compared to a year earlier, according to ATTOM, a real estate data company. The number of filings, which includes default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions, hit 324,237. That’s 115% higher than the number of foreclosure filings in 2021.
The bounce happened after the expiration of the federal foreclosure moratorium that went into effect in March 2020 as part of the CARES Act. It barred lenders from starting foreclosure proceedings on certain government-backed mortgage loans. It also allowed homeowners experiencing pandemic-related financial hardship to request a forbearance plan of up to 18 months. Those provisions expired on July 31, 2021.
Despite the spike in foreclosures between 2021 and 2022, the number of foreclosure filings completed in 2022 was down 34% from 2019 and it was 89% lower than a 2010 peak, when nearly 2.9 million filings were reported.
“Foreclosure activity remains significantly lower than it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rick Sharga, executive vice president of market intelligence at ATTOM, in a press release. “It seems clear that government and mortgage industry efforts during the pandemic, coupled with a strong economy, have helped prevent millions of unnecessary foreclosures.”
The number of lenders repossessing homes also went up in 2022, rising 67% over 2021. Lenders repossessed 42,854 properties. But that figure was down 70% from 2019 and 96% lower than the peak in 2010.
Sharga said the figures show that times have changed since the Great Recession.
“Our recent homeowner equity report shows that 93% of borrowers in foreclosure today have positive equity, which they appear to be leveraging in order to avoid a foreclosure by refinancing their mortgage or selling the property at a profit. It seems likely that this is a trend that will continue in 2023.”
States With the Highest Foreclosure Rates
Nationwide, one in every 433 housing units had a foreclosure filing in 2022, according to the ATTOM report. That’s an overall rate of 0.23%. So how does this break down on a state-by-state basis?
“First, it's really important to note that there are currently no states where we'd say foreclosures are much of a problem right now,” Sharga said in an email to The Balance. “Nationally, foreclosure activity is running at roughly 60% of pre-pandemic levels, and even those levels weren't particularly high from an historical perspective.”
Because states with large populations tend to have the most foreclosures, it’s important to look at the rates of foreclosures (the percentage of housing units in foreclosure). These are the states with the highest foreclosure rates, according to data provided to The Balance by ATTOM.
Illinois topped the list, with the highest foreclosure rate in the country. One in every 205 housing units had a foreclosure filing in 2022, or 0.49%. Among the metropolitan areas with a population greater than 1 million, Chicago also ranked as having one of the highest foreclosure rates. Notably, Illinois has the second-highest property tax rate in the country, which could contribute to financial hardship among homeowners.
Next on the list, New Jersey had the second-highest foreclosure rate. Some 0.45% of housing units—about one in every 223—had a filing. New Jersey also has the highest property tax rate in the country. And Atlantic City, New Jersey had the third-highest foreclosure rate (0.58%) of any city with a population of 200,000 or more.
Delaware had the third-highest foreclosure rate, even though it’s one of the least populated states. One in every 249 housing units (0.40%) had a foreclosure filing.
Ohio came in number four among the states with the highest foreclosure rates. One in every 261 housing units, representing 0.38%, had a filing in 2022. And among cities with 1 million-plus residents, Cleveland had the highest rate of foreclosures. Its foreclosure rate was 0.70%, meaning one in every 143 homes had a foreclosure filing.
In South Carolina, one in every 273 housing units (0.37%) had a foreclosure filing. Additionally, Columbia had the fourth-highest foreclosure rate among the 223 metropolitan statistical areas with a population of at least 200,000.
Sharga explained that a number of the states with the highest percentage of households in foreclosure were executing foreclosures on properties that were either in foreclosure prior to the pandemic, or were 120 or more days delinquent at that time.
“These foreclosures were put on hold by the federal government's foreclosure moratorium, which lasted more than a year, and began re-entering the process in 2022,” he said. “So the relatively high rate of foreclosures in those states doesn't necessarily reflect any current economic weakness—it's just cleaning up distressed loans that were in limbo for a while.”
Sharga added that many of these states also have exceptionally long foreclosure processes, “so it's not unusual to see the number of foreclosures build up while these loans work their way through the system.”
States With the Lowest Foreclosure Rates
Although some states have been hit hard by the rise in foreclosures, others have seen relatively little foreclosure activity.
“While a resurgence in foreclosures may be approaching as banks tighten rules and incentives for loan restructuring decrease, it appears that more stringent regulations at financial institutions are having an effect on containing widespread hardship among homeowners,” said Joshua Massieh, a San Diego-based real estate broker and founder of Pacwest Funding, a mortgage quote service. The following is a look at the states with the lowest foreclosure rates.
South Dakota led the country with the lowest foreclosure rate by far. Just one in every 4,698 housing units had a foreclosure filing. That’s a rate of 0.02%. In fact, the state only had 83 filings for the whole year.
Vermont had the second-lowest foreclosure rate in the U.S. One in every 3,674 housing units (0.03%) had a foreclosure filing, and there were only 91 filings in all.
Next, North Dakota also boasted one of the lowest foreclosure rates. One in every 1,808, or 0.06% of housing units had a foreclosure filing.
West Virginia was ranked fourth for the lowest foreclosure rates in the country. One in every 1,491 housing units had a foreclosure filing, meaning the rate was 0.07%.
Finally, Kentucky rounded out the top five states with the lowest foreclosure rates. One in every 1,227 housing units (0.08%) had a foreclosure filing.
Ultimately, as foreclosure activity gradually works its way back up to more normal levels, Sharga said we'll start to see more regional variances in the numbers.
“Typically, unemployment rates are the best predictor of foreclosure activity, so eventually we'll start to see states with higher unemployment rates also have higher foreclosure rates,” he said, adding that a recession could change foreclosure activity significantly.
Both the Dakotas and Vermont had some of the lowest unemployment rates in the country in November 2022.
Challenges Homeowners Are Facing
Of course, there are many factors that contribute to a homeowner ending up in foreclosure, and each situation is personal. Even so, there are some larger trends that explain the national rise in foreclosures.
Homeowner Pandemic Protections Came to an End
As Sharga mentioned, one of the driving forces behind the rising foreclosure rate is the expiration of many pandemic-era homeowner protections.
While many states and municipalities instituted their own extended protections, some have lapsed at this point. As a result, we’re now catching up on the backlog of foreclosures that would have occurred during the pandemic.
In other words, most of the foreclosures that are being completed today began more than two years ago. The good news is that foreclosure rates are actually lower than they were pre-pandemic.
Another battle that many homeowners have had to face is rampant inflation . The peak was in June 2022, when the annual inflation rate reached 9.1%—its highest level in 40 years. And despite several aggressive rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, inflation was still 6.5% for the 12 months ending December 2022.
Higher costs for non-mortgage expenses puts pressure on overall family finances.
“In the face of a volatile economy, many homeowners are making difficult decisions to stay afloat,” Massieh said. “Whether it is cutting back on leisure expenses such as dining out, or taking drastic measures like selling assets and homes, families have been presented with hard choices in order to make ends meet.”
Rising Interest Rates
As mentioned, the Fed raised rates several times in 2022 in an effort to combat inflation. As a result, mortgage rates increased from less than 3% at the end of 2021 to as high as 7% in 2022. This doesn’t affect most homeowners with fixed-rate mortgages.
However, those who opted for adjustable-rate loans (which doubled in popularity between 2019 and 2022) saw their payments balloon as mortgage rates reset according to the present market. Unfortunately, that means some homeowners are no longer able to afford their loans.
And even for homeowners with fixed-rate mortgages, higher interest rates increased the cost of other types of debt, such as credit card balances. That could have added strain to indebted homeowners who were struggling to pay bills.
The Bottom Line
Even though rising foreclosures are usually a sign of worsening economic conditions, the current situation is somewhat of an anomaly. Emergency measures put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic essentially put a stop to regular foreclosure proceedings. So the sharp uptick in 2022 was really just a return to something closer to normal—although it was still better than the state of foreclosures in 2019.
That said, thousands of homeowners face foreclosure, and many more will likely head down that path. Foreclosure can be detrimental to a person’s finances and sense of stability. So if you’re concerned that you could face foreclosure, consider contacting your mortgage servicer about a loan modification or other solution. The sooner you reach out, the better.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What states have the highest foreclosure rates?
In 2022, the states with the highest foreclosure rates were Illinois, New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio, and South Carolina. These states had the highest percentage of foreclosures per housing unit.
What does it mean when a house is in foreclosure?
A foreclosure happens when a homeowner fails to repay their loan according to its terms, resulting in a default. At that point, the bank can foreclose, meaning it forces a sale of the property to cover the loss.
How do you stop a foreclosure?
Once the foreclosure process has begun, it can be stopped if you take action early enough. It can be a good idea to reach out to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which funds free or low-cost housing counseling nationwide. A HUD-approved counselor can help you get organized, understand your rights, and negotiate with your lender.
Government Accountability Office. “ COVID-19 Housing Protections:
National Consumer Law Center. “ CARES Act. Sec. 4022. Foreclosure Moratorium and Consumer Right To Request Forbearance .”
Tax Foundation. “ How High Are Property Taxes in Your State? ”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “ Labor Rates for States .”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “ Consumer Prices Up 9.1 Percent Over the Year Ended June 2022, Largest Increase in 40 Years .”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “ Consumer Price Index – December 2022 .” Page 1.
Freddie Mac. “ Primary Mortgage Market Survey .”
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “ Mortgage Financing Options in a Higher Interest Rate Environment .”