Foreclosures in Minnesota last year were about 26 percent lower than the year before, dropping to the lowest level in more than a decade, according to newly released data compiled by the Minnesota Homeownership Center.

There were about 5,300 properties statewide that went to a sheriff's sale in 2016, with just over half in the Twin Cities. That's an enormous drop from the years during the housing crisis and recession when an average of 23,000 Minnesota homes went into foreclosure each year.

The Minnesota Homeownership Center, a St. Paul-based non-profit, started collecting data on sheriff's sales from the state's 87 counties in 2005 when it started to notice an increase in foreclosures.

Sheriff's sale records are the most common way to measure foreclosures, but they don't reflect the total number of properties that enter the foreclosure process. Even some of the properties that go to a sheriff's sale may not result in loss of title if the owner redeems the property within six months.

Despite these limitations, the data clearly shows where and when the foreclosure crisis hit the hardest, and how it has since ebbed.

Foreclosure hot spots remain. particularly along the northern edge of the Twin Cities. In Isanti, Pine and Mille Lacs counties more than 5 out of every 1,000 residential properties went to a sheriff's sale last year.

For comparison, statewide about 3 out of every 1,000 properties went to a sheriff's sale.

Ramsey County remains relatively high compared to its neighbors, with nearly 4 of every 1,000 homes going to foreclosure last year. That's down, though, nearly 80 percent compared to six years' earlier.

Hennepin County is at about 3 per 1,000, also down more than 80 percent from the height of the crisis.

For more information, check out the Minnesota Homeownership Center's annual foreclosure reports going back to 2010.

Data Drop is a weekly feature that uses data analysis and visualizations to explain, surprise, inform and entertain readers on topics relevant to Minnesotans. Do you have an idea you'd like us to explore? Contact MaryJo Webster