Foreclosure filings in March jumped 47 percent compared to the same month last year, to a rate of one foreclosure filing for every 775 U.S. households, online foreclosure marketplace RealtyTrac reported today.

The company reported 149,150 foreclosure filings — including default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions — in March, which represents a 7 percent rise from the adjusted February total.

California, Florida, Texas, Michigan and Ohio — the five states with the most foreclosure filings in March — accounted for half of the nation’s foreclosure filings. All five of these states had foreclosure rates above the national average in March.

Slowing sales and price appreciation, along with the impact of rising mortgage payments for home buyers who got in over their heads with exotic loans, have contributed to the rising tide in foreclosures. A March report by First American CoreLogic Inc. predicts 1.1 million foreclosures nationwide in the next six to seven years among adjustable-rate mortgage loans that originated from 2004-06.

While RealtyTrac states in the announcement that it publishes “the largest and most comprehensive national database of preforeclosure and foreclosure properties, with over 900,000 properties from nearly 2,500 counties across the country,” there are critics of the company’s foreclosure statistics.

The Colorado state Division of Housing conducted a review, for example, that concluded that RealtyTrac, among other foreclosure data providers, may exaggerate foreclosure data for that state.

Also, a congressional report that details rising foreclosures for subprime loans uses RealtyTrac statistics, and the Mortgage Bankers Association has criticized the report’s data as “faulty” and “inflated.” MBA Chairman John Robbins said RealtyTrac overestimates the number of foreclosures.

The MBA has acknowledged an increase in foreclosures. The trade group reported last month that the seasonally adjusted delinquency rate for residential properties with one to four units rose 28 basis points from third-quarter 2006 to fourth-quarter 2006, and was up 25 basis points compared to fourth-quarter 2005.

Nevada’s foreclosure activity increased 29 percent in March compared to February, and that state has had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation for the first three months of the year, according to RealtyTrac.

The company reported 4,738 foreclosure filings in Nevada during March, which was about triple the number reported in March 2006 and represents a foreclosure rate of one filing for every 183 households. This rate is about four times the national average.

Colorado’s foreclosure rate of one new foreclosure for every 292 households was 2.7 times the national average and second highest among the states, according to RealtyTrac. The state had 6,267 foreclosure filings during the month, which represents an 18 percent increase from the previous month and a 16 percent increase from March 2006.

California reported 31,434 foreclosure filings in March, the most of any state and an increase of 36 percent from the previous month. The state’s total was nearly triple the number reported a year ago and accounted for 21 percent of the nation’s total, according to the report. California’s foreclosure rate in March was one foreclosure filing for every 389 households, which is third highest among all the states and about twice the national average, RealtyTrac reported.

DataQuick Information Systems, another real estate data company, reported this week that the number of default notices sent to California homeowners in the first quarter of the year “increased to its highest level in almost 10 years, the result of flat appreciation, slow sales and post-teaser-rate mortgage resets.”

And foreclosures data company Foreclosures.com reported this week that about 2.4 in every 1,000 U.S. homeowners faced foreclosure during the first quarter of the year, with a total of 253,803 preforeclosures and notices of pending foreclosure auctions filed. That represents a 22.5 percent increase compared to fourth-quarter 2006, based on the company’s coverage of 1,349 U.S. counties.

Lending institutions filed 46,760 notices of default from January to March, DataQuick reported, up 23.1 percent from the previous quarter and up 148 percent compared to first-quarter 2006. Most of the defaults were for loans originated between April 2005 and May 2006.

Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois also ranked in the top 10 for highest foreclosure rates in the nation, according to RealtyTrac.

“Foreclosure activity shifted into a higher gear in the first two months of 2007, and March’s numbers continued that trend,” said James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac CEO, in a statement.

“While foreclosures are causing a major disruption in the subprime sector of the lending industry and saturating pockets of some local markets, it’s important to note that U.S. foreclosure activity overall is not far above historical norms. Last year we saw a surge in foreclosures in the first quarter followed by a leveling off through the second and third quarters; however, if that pattern does not repeat itself, and foreclosure activity continues to accelerate, we may see more widespread consequences.”

Six of the 10 cities with the nation’s highest metro foreclosure rates were located in California, RealtyTrac reported. Stockton, Calif., had a foreclosure rate of one filing for every 128 households in March, which was the highest metro foreclosure rate in the nation and about six times the national average. Other California cities with foreclosure rates in the top 10 included Vallejo-Fairfield in third, Modesto in fifth, Sacramento in sixth, Riverside-San Bernardino in seventh and Bakersfield in 10th.

The Las Vegas metro area had the nation’s second-highest metro foreclosure rate, at one foreclosure filing for every 139 households, according to the report.

Other metro areas with foreclosure rates among the nation’s 10 highest included Greeley, Colo., Detroit and Denver.

RealtyTrac’s report includes documents filed in all phases of foreclosure: notice of default and lis pendens; notice of trustee sale and notice of foreclosure sale; and real estate-owned, or REO properties that have been foreclosed on and repurchased by a bank.

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