Foreclosure activity fell sharply last month, partly due to foreclosure freezes by some major lenders, according to a report by foreclosure data site RealtyTrac.

Some 262,339 U.S. properties received a foreclosure filing last month, a 21 percent decrease from October and a 14 percent decrease from November 2009. Both declines were the highest recorded since RealtyTrac began publishing its U.S. Foreclosure Report in January 2005, the company said.

Nationally, 1 in 492 housing units received a default notice, scheduled auction or bank repossession last month.

After 20 straight months where more than 300,000 U.S. homeowners received a foreclosure filing, November was the first month to go below the 300,000 mark since February 2009, said James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac’s CEO, in a statement.

"While part of the decrease can be attributed to a seasonal drop of 7 to 10 percent that typically occurs in November, fallout from the foreclosure robo-signing controversy forced lenders and servicers to hit the pause button on many foreclosures while they scrambled to revamp their internal procedures and revise or resubmit questionable paperwork," he said.

The number of properties receiving default notices fell 21 percent month-to-month and 31 percent year-over-year, to 78,955 — the 10th straight month of annual declines and the lowest total since July 2007, RealtyTrac said.

The decrease was especially noticeable in judicial foreclosure states, where default notices fell 43 percent year-over-year in November. Judicial foreclosures states, where a lender must work through the courts to take back a home, were most affected by foreclosure freezes.

Scheduled foreclosure auctions remained flat from November 2009, but fell 16 percent from October, to 115,956. Auctions fell month-to-month largely in judicial foreclosure states, -34 percent, compared with -7 percent in nonjudicial foreclosure states. Year-over-year, public foreclosure auctions actually rose 5 percent in nonjudicial foreclosure states while falling 12 percent in judicial foreclosure states.

Activity for bank repossessions of homes (REOs) fell 28 percent month-to-month and 12 percent year-over-year, to 67,428 — the lowest total since May 2009, RealtyTrac said. Year-to-date, however, the REO total has exceeded 980,000, above the record year-end total for 2009, the company added.

Nevada posted the nation’s highest foreclosure rate for the 47th consecutive month. Though November foreclosure activity in the state fell 20 percent month-to-month, it was up 22.3 percent year-over-year.

Utah had the second-highest foreclosure rate in the nation in November — up from No. 6 in October 2010 — and was the only state among the 10 with the highest rates to see an increase in activity from October, up 17.3 percent. Year-over-year, foreclosure filings activity in Utah jumped 60.3 percent.

California had the third-highest foreclosure rate, though the state saw both month-to-month and year-over-year decreases: -13.7 percent and -22.5 percent, respectively.

Arizona and Florida had the fourth- and fifth-highest rates, respectively, but saw even sharper decreases last month. In Arizona, foreclosure activity fell 37.2 percent month-to-month and 27.6 percent year-over-year. In Florida, activity dropped 42.1 percent month-to-month and 37.8 percent year-over-year.

Top 10 states with the highest foreclosure activity rates in November:

1. Nevada (1 filing per 99 homes)

2. Utah (1 in 221)

3. California (1 in 223)

4. Arizona (1 in 262)

5. Florida (1 in 267)

6. Georgia (1 in 279)

7. Michigan (1 in 296)

8. Idaho (1 in 301)

9. Illinois (1 in 408)

10. Colorado (1 in 433)

Top 10 states with the highest foreclosure activity by volume in November:

1. California: 57,378 properties

2. Florida: 32,938

3. Michigan: 15,311

4. Georgia: 14,423

5. Texas: 13,369

6. Illinois: 12,941

7. Nevada: 11,371

8. Ohio: 10,458

9. Arizona: 10,384

10. Pennsylvania: 5,672

Source: RealtyTrac

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