Foreclosures See Smallest Increase in Four Years

Foreclosure prevention programs, legislation and other processing delays are capping monthly foreclosure activity and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, according to the chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, who says foreclosure filings were reported on 308,524 properties in February, down 2% from January and up 6% from a year ago.

REO agents are feeling optimistic in many of the local markets RealtyTrac follows because they are seeing an increase in homebuyer interest. In states with the highest foreclosure rates, these agents say buying appears to be driven by distressed sales.

"The 6% year-over-year increase we saw in February was the smallest annual increase we've seen since January 2006," said James Saccacio, CEO of RealtyTrac, Irvine, Calif.

Default notices were reported on 106,208 properties, an increase of 3% from January but down 3% from February 2009. This was a decrease of 25% from their peak of more than 142,000 in April 2009.

Foreclosure auctions were scheduled for the first time on a total of 123,633 properties, a decrease of 1% from January and 16% higher than a year ago. The auctions went down 14% from their peak of more than 144,000 in August 2009.

Bank repossessions were reported on 78,683 properties, a 10% decrease from January but an increase of 6% from February 2009. REOs were down 15% from their peak of more than 92,000 in December 2009 but were at nearly twice the level reported in February 2006.

Nevada foreclosure activity fell 7% from January and was down 30% from February 2009, but the state's foreclosure rate continued to rank highest in the nation for the 38th month in a row. One in every 102 Nevada housing units received a foreclosure filing during the month, more than four times the national average.

Arizona and Florida documented nearly identical foreclosure rates, with one in every 163 housing units receiving a filing in both states. Despite a nearly 21% decrease in foreclosure activity compared to January, Arizona's rate was statistically slightly higher than Florida's rate and ranked second highest among the states.

California's foreclosure rate ranked fourth highest in the country, with one in every 195 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing, and Michigan's foreclosure rate was fifth highest among the states, with one in every 226 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing.

Other states with foreclosure rates among the 10 highest were Utah (one in every 275 housing units), Idaho (one in 296), Illinois (one in 305) and Georgia (one in 331).

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