In another sign the U.S. housing market may be on the mend, the number of homes that could be listed for sale soon fell to its lowest level in more than three years in July.

The nation’s shadow inventory, which refers to homes that are delinquent, in foreclosure or held by lenders but not currently for sale, fell to 2.3 million units in July, the most recent month for which data is available, CoreLogic, a data firm, said Tuesday.

The number of prospective listings represents a drop of 10.2% from July 2011 and the lowest total since March 2009, CoreLogic said. 

According to CoreLogic, current sales of distressed properties are offsetting the number of homes that are sitting in the shadow inventory.

“The reduction is being driven by a variety of resolution approaches,” Anand Nallathambi, CoreLogic’s chief executive, said in a news release.  “This is yet another hopeful sign that the housing market is slowly healing.”

Of homes currently in the shadow inventory, one million have mortgages on them that are at least 90 days overdue.  Another 900,000 homes are in some stage of foreclosure, and 345,000 already are owned by banks.

The dollar volume of shadow inventory stood at $382 billion in July, down 3.8% from a year earlier.  Overall, 45% of distressed properties in the U.S. are in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and New York, CoreLogic said.

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