The foreclosure sale rate hit a three-year high in April, as the foreclosure process slowly returns to normal after years of delays and legal disputes.

The foreclosure sale rate, which shows the rate at which foreclosures are completed, increased 17% between March 31 and April 30, or 3% of the total foreclosure inventory in states with judicial foreclosure review, according to a monthly report from Lender Processing Services (LPS). In states with nonjudicial review, the April sale rate was 6.9%, an 11% monthly increase.

These rates are the highest they've been since the fall of 2010, when many banks froze their foreclosures as the federal government demanded that they review the process. The industry signed a $9.3 billion settlement in January that ended the troubled and controversial review process.

Even as the foreclosure process slowly returns to normal, the length of time it takes to foreclose continued to grow, LPS said in the report released Thursday. In April, the average loan in foreclosure had been delinquent for 33.3 months in states with judicial foreclosure and 20.5 months in non-judicial states, up from 19.4 months and 13.1 months, respectively, in January 2010. The disparity in foreclosure speed in judicial and nonjudicial states also continued to grow.

The foreclosure inventory shrank in April, to 3.2% nationally. But the rate in judicial states, 5.3%, remains higher than in nonjudicial states, 1.6%. Inventories are still far higher than they were before the crisis, having risen 458% since January 2005.

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