By Jason Allen

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Nicholaas Engelhard walked into a Dallas County home looking for a bargain.  It was a spacious four-bedroom, in a nice neighborhood, and it was a foreclosure.  Twelve percent of the homes on the market right now are, said his realtor Barbara Van Poole.

Year end reports from Addison based Foreclosure Listing Service show that trend is changing.

There were more than 7,400 fewer foreclosures in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area last year than in 2010, a 12 percent drop.  Commercial postings were down, 14 percent.

That follows more than a decade of foreclosure increases in the region.

Home foreclosures are now at their lowest level in three years.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the homes with the notices on the windows, and the sale signs out front are going to start disappearing from neighborhoods.

The house Engelhard toured is a perfect example. The garish colors on the wall were one thing. But the cracks he could fit his hand into on the walls, caused by foundation problems were an entirely different problem.

The flooring was old and stained. The décor was outdated.  “You just have to plug in 10 to 15 thousand dollars right out of your pocket,” he said.  “And that is brutal to your bottom line.”

Banks often still have an asking price that doesn’t match the condition the home is in, said Van Poole.  “You wind up with all kinds of issues,” she said. “They’re still trying to get top dollar for the home, and now the home is continuing to be worth less and less.”

Engelhard, who tours homes a few times a week looked for investments, said most of them are in similar condition and he often ends up walking away.

It can take months Van Poole said, for banks to come around and realize they will have to lower their asking price to get a buyer to commit.

She also said she has also seen lenders agreeing to more short sales recently, cutting down on the number of homes they have to foreclose on.

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