Foreclosure Activity Decreases By 8% in Nov.

November was the fourth straight month that foreclosure activity declined after hitting an all-time high in July, according to the latest data from RealtyTrac here, which said November foreclosures were at their lowest level since February.

Based on its November U.S. Foreclosure Market Report, foreclosure filings, including default notices, scheduled foreclosure auctions and bank repossessions, were reported on 306,627 properties during the month, a decrease of 8% from October but still up 18% from November 2008.

Default notices nationwide were down 8% from October but rose 22% from a year ago, while scheduled foreclosure auctions were down 12% but still up 32% from November 2008. Bank repossessions were flat compared to October and down 2% from the same time last year.

“Loan modifications, along with the recently extended and expanded homebuyer tax credit, are keeping a lid on the most visible symptoms of the nation’s ailing housing market — foreclosures and home value depreciation,” said RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio.

“A full recovery will only come when unemployment recedes to normal, healthy levels and when availability of credit reaches a more rational balance between the extremes of the past few years.” For the second month in a row, the same four states accounted for 52% of the nation’s total foreclosure activity: California, Florida, Illinois and Michigan.

While there was a 13% decrease in foreclosures, California posted the highest total of any state with 73,995 properties receiving a filing in November, up 22% from a year ago and down nearly 32% from its July peak of 108,104. November marked the fourth straight month that California foreclosure activity has declined on a month-over-month basis.

After two straight month-over-month decreases, Florida foreclosures increased slightly. A total of 52,935 Florida homes received a filing, a rise of nearly 2% from October and up nearly 8% from November 2008.

Foreclosures in Illinois plummeted nearly 18% from a record high in October, but the state’s 16,422 properties receiving filings in November was 108% higher than November 2008 and third highest in the country.

Las Vegas dropped from the top metropolitan area with a population of at least 200,000 to No. 5 thanks to a 33% decrease in foreclosures.

The top three metro foreclosure rates were in California. Merced took the top spot, with one in every 83 housing units receiving a filing in November thanks in part to a 21% increase in activity from the previous month.

In Stockton foreclosure activity went up 37% and the city documented the nation’s second highest metro foreclosure rate with one in every 85 housing units receiving a filing.

Despite a 7% decrease in foreclosure activity from October, Modesto saw the nation’s third highest metro foreclosure rate, with one in every 87 housing units receiving a filing in November.

Other California metro areas with foreclosure rates in the top 10 were Riverside-San Bernardino at No. 6 (one in every 102 housing units), Bakersfield at No. 7 (one in 111), Vallejo-Fairfield at No. 9 (one in 126) and Sacramento at No. 10 (one in 132).

Florida accounted for two of the top 10 metro foreclosure rates: Cape Coral-Fort Myers at No. 4 and Orlando-Kissimmee at No. 8.