Lenders repossessed properties at record rates during May, even as the number of homes entering the foreclosure process declined, according to the latest numbers from RealtyTrac.

Foreclosure-related filings fell 3 percent from April to May, driven by a 7 percent drop in default notices and a 4 percent decrease in scheduled auction notices, RealtyTrac said.

Improvements in default and auction notices were partially offset by a 1 percent increase in bank repossessions, which hit a record high of 93,777 during May, up 44 percent from a year ago.

All 50 states posted increases in bank repossessions from a year ago, RealtyTrac said, as lenders worked through a backlog of distressed properties that’s been building up over the past 20 months.

"Defaults and scheduled auctions combined increased by 28 percent from 2007 to 2008 and another 32 percent from 2008 to 2009, creating a buildup of delayed bank repossessions," said James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac CEO.

"Lenders appear to be ramping up the pace of completing those forestalled foreclosures even while the inflow of delinquencies into the foreclosure process has slowed."

The number of properties hit with notices of default in May — 96,462 — was down 22 percent from a year ago and off 32 percent from an April 2009 peak.

Foreclosure auctions were scheduled on 132,681 properties during May — about the same as a year ago, but down 16 percent from a peak in March.

Nationwide, 1 in 400 homes was subject to a foreclosure-related filing during May. Nevada topped the list of states with the highest rates of foreclosure-related filings, at 1 in 79 homes, followed by: Arizona (1 in 169 homes), Florida (1 in 174 homes), California (1 in 186 homes), Michigan (1 in 223 homes), Georgia (1 in 292 homes), Idaho (1 in 309 homes), Illinois (1 in 350 homes), Utah (1 in 360 homes) and Maryland (1 in 399 homes).

In terms of the raw number of foreclosure-related filings, the top 10 states were: California (72,030), Florida (50,685), Michigan (20,322), Arizona (16,097), Illinois (15,061), Nevada (14,346), Georgia (13,778), Texas (11,137), Ohio (10,379) and New Jersey (7,993).

Foreclosure activity was down from a year ago in all but one of the 10 metro areas with the highest foreclosure rates: Las Vegas (-18 percent); Merced, Calif. (-7 percent);  Modesto, Calif. (-28 percent); Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif. (1 percent); Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla. (-19 percent); Stockton, Calif. (-33 percent); Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario (-29 percent); Bakersfield, Calif. (-19 percent); Reno-Sparks, Nev. (-18 percent); and Phoenix (-9 percent).


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