Foreclosure-related filings were up 6 percent in February compared to a year ago, data aggregator RealtyTrac said today — the smallest year-over-year increase in records dating to January 2006.

The 308,524 U.S. properties hit with foreclosure-related filings during the month represented a 2 percent decrease from January, and February was a shorter month by three days.

The leveling of foreclosure-related filings is not necessarily evidence that fewer homeowners are in distress and at risk for foreclosure, RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio said in a press release.

Foreclosure prevention programs, legislation and other processing delays are "in effect capping monthly foreclosure activity" at a historically high level that will likely continue for an extended period, Saccacio said.

Not all properties subjected to foreclosure-related filings will be sold at auction or repossessed by lenders. RealtyTrac tracks default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions.

Default notices were reported on 106,208 homes in February, down 3 percent from a year ago and 25 percent below an April 2009 peak of 142,000.

Scheduled foreclosure auctions were up 16 percent from a year ago, to 123,633, but down 14 percent from an August 2009 peak of 144,000.

Banks repossessed 78,683 homes in February, up 6 percent from a year ago but down 15 percent from a peak of 92,000 in December 2009.

Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate during February, with 1 in 102 homes subjected to a foreclosure-related filing, compared with an average of 1 in 418 homes nationwide. Nevada was followed by Arizona (foreclosure filings on 1 in 163 homes), Florida (1 in 163 homes), California (1 in 195 homes) and Michigan (1 in 226 homes).

In terms of raw numbers, six states accounted for 61 percent of foreclosure-related filings nationwide: California (filings on 68,562 properties), Florida (54,032), Michigan (20,028), Illinois (17,312), Arizona (16,718) and Texas (12,638).

At the metro level, Las Vegas had the highest foreclosure rate, with 1 in 90 homes subjected to a foreclosure-related filing. A 31 percent increase in foreclosure activity in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., metro area left that market with the second-highest metro foreclosure rate in February, with 1 in every 92 homes subjected to a foreclosure-related filing.

Foreclosure filings were down 18 percent in the Phoenix area, and down 9 percent in Las Vegas.

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