The number of U.S. homes lost to foreclosure in September was half the number in September 2010 — the peak month of the foreclosure crisis, according to data released Wednesday.

In September, there were 57,000 completed foreclosures across the country, real estate industry analysis firm CoreLogic reported in its monthly National Foreclosure Report. A year prior, in September 2011, there were 83,000 completed foreclosures.

"Increasingly improving market conditions and industry and government policy are allowing distressed homeowners to pursue refinancing, loan modifications or short sales rather than foreclosures,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic, in a statement. Short sales, a foreclosure-circumventing process in which the lender agrees to a sale amount that is less than is owed on a delinquent mortgage, were up 27 percent year-over-year in August, CoreLogic said.

“The continuing downward trend in foreclosures along with a gradual clearing of the shadow inventory are signs of stabilization and improvement in the housing market,” Nallathambi said.

Between 2000 and 2006, the U.S. saw an average of 21,000 completed foreclosures each month. Since the crisis started in September 2008, about 3.9 million homes have gone through the foreclosure process, according to CoreLogic.

The total number of U.S. homes in some stage of the foreclosure process was about 1.4 million during September — about 3.3 percent of all mortgaged residences, CoreLogic’s data shows. That inventory is down from 1.5 million homes, 3.5 percent of mortgaged homes, a year prior.

Unlike the national trend, Maryland has seen an increase in its foreclosure inventory over the past year. In September, 4.5 percent of Maryland homes with a mortgage were in the foreclosure process, up 1.6 percentage points from a year before.

Among all 50 states, Maryland’s foreclosure inventory had the largest percentage point increase during the September 2011 to September 2012 period.

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