Survey: The Number of Americans in Foreclosure Down 25 Percent

Mortgage delinquency rates are at their lowest since July 2008.

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The number of Americans in the foreclosure process has fallen by nearly 25 percent in the past year.

As home prices rise and sales pick up, the housing crisis is increasingly becoming a distant memory as the United States recovers from one of the worst economic shocks in history.

Now another legacy of the financial crisis is fading as well. The number of Americans in the foreclosure process fell by almost 25 percent since April 2012 according to Lender Processing Services data. Delinquency rates also dropped, falling below 6.5 percent for the first time since July 2008.

[SLIDESHOW: The 10 Best Cities to Buy Foreclosures]

A lot of it has to do with record low mortgage rates and government programs aimed and helping more Americans refinance their mortgages. With lower monthly payments, homebuyers that were on the rocks might now be sitting pretty.

"People who couldn't afford to pay $800 a month suddenly find themselves paying $500 a month, which is a lot easier to handle," Glenn Kelman, CEO of Seattle-based real estate website Redfin, wrote in an email.

Time is also a factor, Kelman adds: "If you haven't lost your place by now - six years after the bubble burst - you probably aren't going to lose your place."

In line with LPS data, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that distressed homes - foreclosures and short sales - accounted for 18 percent of sales in April, down from 21 percent in March and 28 percent in April 2012.

But while lower foreclosure rates are a sign the economy and household finances are recovering, economists have blamed the dearth of foreclosures for some of the lackluster gains in the housing market recently. Existing and new home sales have both been constrained by tight inventory, according to experts, driving prices up in markets across the country and stunting a more solid recovery.

[READ: Where Have All the Foreclosures Gone?]

"Without these frictions, existing-home sales easily would be above the 5-million unit pace," Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, said of continued tight access to credit and limited for-sale inventory.

NAR reported an annual sales rate of 4.97-million units for April. That's slightly above March figures and almost 10 percent above levels recorded in April 2012, but disappointing nonetheless according to Yun.

"Buyer traffic is 31 percent stronger than a year ago, but sales are running only about 10 percent higher," Yun said. "It's become quite clear that the only way to tame price growth to a manageable, healthy pace is higher levels of new home construction."

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