NEW YORK, March 1 (Reuters) - Sales of bank owned U.S. homes fell in the fourth quarter of 2011, though foreclosures still accounted for nearly one in every four sales, data from RealtyTrac showed on Thursday.
Foreclosure-related sales are expected to increase in 2012, particularly pre-foreclosure sales, as lenders start to more aggressively dispose of distressed assets held up by the mortgage servicing gridlock over the past 18 months, RealtyTrac said.
Sales of seized homes totalled 115,777 in the final three months of 2011, dropping 10 percent compared to the third quarter of last year, and down 12 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010.
Sales of homes in some stage of the foreclosure process also fell to 204,080, down 8 percent from the previous quarter and off 2 percent compared to the year before.
Homes that were bank owned or in the foreclosure process accounted for 24 percent of home sales, up from 20 percent in the third quarter. Still, it was down from 26 percent at the end of 2010.
"Sales of foreclosures in the fourth quarter continued to be slowed by questions surrounding proper foreclosure paperwork and procedures," Brandon Moore, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, said in a statement.
"We expect to see foreclosure-related sales increase in 2012, particularly pre-foreclosure sales, as lenders start to more aggressively dispose of distressed assets held up by the mortgage servicing gridlock over the past 18 months."
Foreclosure related sales dipped to 907,138 for the year, down 2 percent from 2010, and accounting for 23 percent of sales during 2011.
Bank-owned sales accounted for 13 percent of sales in the fourth quarter, and 14 percent of sales in 2011.
The average sales price of distressed homes was $164,944, little changed from the previous quarter, but down 5 percent from a year ago.
Prices were 29 percent lower than the average price of a non-foreclosure sale during the quarter.
In Nevada, 56 percent of sales were homes in foreclosure, the highest percentage of any state.
Reporting By Leah Schnurr; Editing by Andrew Hay