Foreclosure timelines that rose notably during the past year fell back to 2016 levels during the first quarter of 2018, according to Attom Data Solutions.

The average foreclosure time was 791 days during the first quarter, down from 1,027 in the fourth quarter of 2017 and from 814 during the first quarter of last year.

Average foreclosure timelines haven't been below 800 days since the third quarter of 2016 when it took an average of 625 days to foreclose.

Foreclosure timelines typically lengthen during the fourth quarter, in part due to grace periods lenders and secondary market mortgage investors like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac give borrowers during the holidays. Timelines subsequently accelerate in the first quarter.

The average foreclosure timeline incorporates a wide disparity between states. In Virginia it took just 193 days on average to foreclose in the first quarter, while in Hawaii it took 1,765 days.

Foreclosure timelines

This means borrowers in states hit by the unusually severe hurricane season last year may be going through the foreclosure process at drastically different speeds.

Florida, parts of which were hit hard by Hurricane Irma, on average processed foreclosures within 1,247 days during the first quarter. Texas, parts of which were hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, on average is taking 427 days to process foreclosures.

More recent foreclosures are now playing a more prominent role in overall foreclosure activity.

"Less than half of all active foreclosures are now tied to loans originated during the last housing bubble, one of several data milestones in this report showing that the U.S. housing market has mostly cleared out the backlog of bad loans that triggered the housing and financial crisis nearly a decade ago," Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at Attom Data Solutions, said in a press release.

"Meanwhile, we are beginning to see early signs that some post-recession loan vintages are defaulting at a slightly elevated rate, a sign that some loosening of lending standards has occurred in recent years. Consequently, foreclosure starts are trending higher compared to a year ago in an increasing number of local markets — some of which are a bit surprising given the overall strength of housing in those markets."

Overall, foreclosure starts are down 19% compared to last year's first quarter, but they are higher in at least 82 metropolitan statistical areas.

Some of the largest year-to-year increases in foreclosure starts occurred in Indianapolis (148%) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (64%).