The foreclosure rate in Beaufort County has continued to drop during the last four years, with a dramatic decline in the past year, according to a national foreclosure-tracking firm.
"In comparison, Beaufort County appears to be leading the state in terms of getting through the foreclosure problem faster," said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac.
One of every 658 homes in the county was in foreclosure in July, according to RealtyTrac data. That translates into 139 homes in foreclosure, nearly 100 fewer than in July 2012.
The national foreclosure rate has declined 34 consecutive months on a year-over-year basis, RealtyTrac data indicate.
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From July 2012 to July 2013, the national number of foreclosures dropped 31.8 percent. The state's number of foreclosures dropped 32.4 percent. And they dropped 40.6 percent in Beaufort County.
The decline signals that the local housing market is working its way through its inventory of distressed properties, said Carl Joye, a Realtor in northern Beaufort County.
The national drop in the foreclosure rate also helps boost the Lowcountry market, said Linda Frank, president of the Hilton Head Area Association of Realtors. That's because people wanting to move to Beaufort County have a better chance of selling their house elsewhere, she said.
"Sales are up; inventories are going down; median prices are increasing; days on the market are coming down," Frank said of the local housing market. "For popular types of properties or neighborhoods, some Realtors are experiencing multiple bids for their sellers."
For the foreseeable future, foreclosures will continue to come on the market. Since last fall, the number of foreclosed homes up for auction has remained relatively steady, the RealtyTrac data show.
And Joye said banks are more motivated to sell foreclosed properties they've been holding on to, as the housing market improves.
Last week, Joye sold three foreclosed properties. He has two more auctions next week, and on Friday, he received a contract to sell another, he said.
"Life today as a Realtor is good, and it hasn't been that way for a while," Joye said.
"The market in Beaufort County, both north and south, is probably one of the best in the country. It's a great value today. People want to move here, and they are."
Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.