Foreclosure activity was down on an annual basis for the 16th month in a row in January, but there are signs that activity is picking up in some states, according to a report from foreclosure data aggregator RealtyTrac.
A total of 210,941 U.S. properties, or 1 in 624 housing units, received a foreclosure filing -- default notice, scheduled auction or bank repossession -- in January. That's a nearly 3 percent increase from December, but a 19 percent decrease compared to January 2011.
"Although overall foreclosure activity was down from a year ago for the 16th straight month in January, we continue to see signs on a local and regional level that the frozen-up foreclosure process is beginning to thaw," said Brandon Moore, RealtyTrac's CEO, in a statement.
"Foreclosure activity increased on a year-over-year basis for the first time in more than 12 months in Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania, following a pattern we saw in late 2011 in states such as California, Arizona and Massachusetts.
"We expect the pattern of increasing foreclosures to continue in the coming months, especially given the finalized mortgage and foreclosure settlement reached in early February between 49 state attorneys general and five of the nation's largest lenders.
The settlement sets forth clear guidelines for lenders and servicers to follow when foreclosing, which should allow them to push through some of the delayed foreclosures from last year."
RealtyTrac anticipates there will be 1 million completed foreclosures in 2012 -- a 25 percent increase from 2011. Completed foreclosures fell by nearly 25 percent last year, according to a report from data and analytics firm CoreLogic.
RealtyTrac's Moore added, "Other roadblocks to foreclosure are still in place at the state level, however, including legislation altering the foreclosure process and lawsuits against lenders. We expect to see somewhat uneven trends in local and regional foreclosure numbers going forward as lenders work through these additional legislative and legal roadblocks."
A total of 58,362 U.S. properties received a default notice in January, flat from the month before but a 22 percent decline from January 2011.
Several states saw default notices rise by more than 20 percent year over year, including Connecticut (23 percent), Massachusetts (27 percent), Florida (36 percent), Maryland (100 percent) and Pennsylvania (112 percent), the report said.
Scheduled auctions rose a slight one percent month to month, but fell 20 percent year over year in January, to 86,037.
Some states saw scheduled auctions jump by more than 20 percent on an annual basis, including Minnesota (24 percent), Massachusetts (57 percent), South Carolina (79 percent), Indiana (141 percent) and Illinois (141 percent), the report said.
Bank repossessions (REOs) saw the biggest monthly increase and the smallest yearly decrease among the three categories of foreclosure activity. Lenders took back a total of 66,542 U.S. properties in January, up 8 percent from December and down 15 percent from January 2011.
REO activity rose at least 30 percent compared to a year ago in a number of states, including Wisconsin (30 percent), Connecticut (39 percent), Illinois (52 percent), Indiana (60 percent), New Hampshire (62 percent) and Massachusetts (75 percent), the report revealed.
Nevada's foreclosure rate was at a 52-month low in January, but the state still posted the nation's highest foreclosure rate for the 61st straight month. One in every 198 housing units, or 5,931 properties in the state, received a foreclosure filing last month, down 52 percent year over year.
California had the nation's second-highest foreclosure activity rate in January. A total of 51,584 properties, or 1 in 265 units, received a foreclosure filing last month -- a 23 percent annual decrease and a 50-month low for the state.
Arizona's foreclosure activity was down 44 percent from January 2011, but the state nonetheless posted the nation's third-highest foreclosure activity rate: 1 in 325 units, or 8,749 properties.
The double-digit annual drops in activity for all three of the top states were driven by a decrease in foreclosure starts last month (a decline in default notices in Nevada and California, and scheduled auctions in Arizona).
Top 10 states with the highest foreclosure rates:
|Area||Foreclosure rate (January 2012)|
|U.S.||1 in 624 housing units|
|Nevada||1 in 198|
|California||1 in 265|
|Arizona||1 in 325|
|Georgia||1 in 328|
|Michigan||1 in 354|
|Florida||1 in 363|
|Illinois||1 in 369|
|Delaware||1 in 373|
|Colorado||1 in 523|
|Indiana||1 in 555|
California metros accounted for 11 of the 20 metro areas with the highest foreclosure rates in the country in January, including nine of the top 10 spots. Only four of the top 20 saw year-over-year increases in foreclosure activity, RealtyTrac said: Lansing-East Lansing, Mich. (up 20 percent); Orlando-Kissimmee, Fla. (up 55 percent); Chicago (up 13 percent); and Miami (up 21 percent).
U.S. metros with highest foreclosure rate
|Metro area||Foreclosure rate (January 2012)|
|Stockton, Calif.||1 in 140 housing units|
|Modesto, Calif.||1 in 143|
|Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.||1 in 164|
|Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.||1 in 168|
|Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.||1 in 172|
|Bakersfield, Calif.||1 in 199|
|Sacramento, Calif.||1 in 209|
|Merced, Calif.||1 in 215|
|Fresno, Calif.||1 in 235|
|Visalia-Porterville, Calif.||1 in 236|
|Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif.||1 in 246|
|Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga.||1 in 250|
|Lansing-East Lansing, Mich.||1 in 258|
|Orlando-Kissimmee, Fla.||1 in 266|
|Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.||1 in 270|
|Detroit-Warren-Livonia, Mich.||1 in 275|
|Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Ill.-Ind.-Wis.||1 in 276|
|Reno-Sparks, Nev.||1 in 281|
|Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla.||1 in 290|
|Salinas, Calif.||1 in 298|
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