Banks are still holding on to scores of delinquent mortgages that date to the real estate crash, but a surge in home values across the country is motivating them to move the most troublesome loans off their books more quickly.

Over roughly the past year, banks have been ratcheting up repossessions of foreclosed homes to the highest level in four years, according to the data firm RealtyTrac. Banks repossessed a total of 449,900 homes in 2015, up 38% from a year earlier, as they aim to capitalize on improving economic conditions and finally push their most seriously delinquent loans through to foreclosure.

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