Fewer Haverhill people lost their homes to foreclosure last year than in 2010, but real estate sales remained stagnant.
The Merrimack Valley Housing Report, a publication of the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds, indicated a substantial drop in the number of property foreclosures and foreclosure notices between 2010 and 2011.
The report shows that in Haverhill:
Foreclosures dropped from 181 in 2010 to 119 in 2011, a dip of about 34 percent.
Notices of foreclosures dropped from 313 in 2010 to 164 in 2011, a 48-percent decline.
Mortgage transactions and the sales of homes of all kinds — including condominiums — decreased slightly. Sales declined from 1,144 in 2010 to 1,068 in 2,011, a 7 percent dip. Mortgage transactions — including original mortgages and refinancing — dropped from 1,974 to 1,679 in 2011, a 15-percent decline.
David Turcotte, a research professor for UMass Lowell and a co-editor of the report, said several factors are behind the changes. They included a federal tax credit in 2010 for first-time home buyers, which helped increase sales that year, and new legislation demanding more accountability in foreclosure cases, which slowed banks' ability to foreclose on homeowners who are late with mortgage payments.
"The whole foreclosure process has really been drawn out," Turcotte said.
Slacking sales mean home prices will remain steady or decline, which could attract first-time home buyers, but Turcotte said prices will decline more before the market really rebounds.
"There's good news and bad news in all of this," he said. "No one expects prices to jump up. The only way you're going to get more activity in the coming years is if the prices drop further."
Haverhill real estate agents agree the city has had a buyer's market for homes during the past two years, but question how many more buyers will come to Haverhill for the savings.
"We might see (a sales) uptick in 2012, but I don't think it will be a big uptick," said Richard Rosa, owner of the real estate company Buyers Brokers Only.