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Foreclosure Shoppers Find the Shelves Bare

With foreclosures at their lowest levels since 2008, bargain shoppers looking for steeply discounted foreclosed homes are coming up empty these days.

Data from the real estate analytical firm FNC shows that foreclosure prices have "bottomed out in recent months."

FNC also notes the foreclosure market has "stabilized" as U.S. home prices have risen in value. That, the firm says, is "encouraging news" for the domestic housing market, which has been in the doldrums since 2007.

"The fact that we are seeing a combination of rising home prices and a bottoming out of foreclosure prices is a very good sign the housing recovery is taking hold," says FNC's senior research economist, Yanling Mayer. "This is the very first time in the long housing recession that the two are happening at the same time."

In fact, home foreclosure discounts have fallen to pre-recession levels, to about 12% in the fourth quarter of 2012, FNC reports. Back in 2008 and 2009, buyers could count on home foreclosure discounts of 25%, the company says.

"If you look at the period of short-lived recovery under the first-time homebuyer tax credits, the foreclosure market was still in the midst of rapid deterioration with the influx of delinquent mortgages," Mayer says. "This time, we are witnessing an entirely different development in the foreclosure market."

U.S. homeowners should take significant comfort from the latest foreclosure numbers.

With discounts thinning out, and less distressed properties on the market, "regular" home values are rising, and that not only helps homeowners; it adds fuel to an economic recovery looking for any help in shifting out of first gear.
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