The number of homes hit with foreclosure-related filings picked up during the first three months of the year in more than half of markets tracked by public records aggregator RealtyTrac, "an early sign that long-dormant foreclosures are coming out of hibernation in many local markets," the company said

The number of homes subjected to some type of foreclosure filing increased in 114 of 212 markets with populations of 200,000 or more, compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. 

Foreclosure-related filings were up from quarter-to-quarter in 26 out of 50 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, including Pittsburgh (up 49 percent), Indianapolis (up 37 percent), Philadelphia (up 30 percent), New York (up 24 percent), Raleigh, N.C. (up 23 percent), and Virginia Beach, Va. (up 22 percent).

Many industry analysts expect loan servicers to step up the pace of foreclosures in some markets as they put the "robo-signing" controversy behind them.

But foreclosure filings have dropped off dramatically in other markets. The total number of homes subjected to foreclosure-related filings nationwide fell 2.25 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2012, and 15.9 percent from the same time a year ago.

During the first quarter, a total of 572,928 housing units — 1 in every 230 — were subjected to a foreclosure-related filing, either a default notice, scheduled auction or bank repossession. That was the lowest total since the fourth quarter of 2007,  RealtyTrac said in a report earlier this month.

The biggest quarterly decreases in foreclosure activity among the 50 largest metro areas were in Portland, Ore. (down 28 percent), Las Vegas (down 26 percent), Providence, R.I. (down 24 percent), Salt Lake City (down 22 percent), Boston (down 21 percent), and San Jose, Calif. (down 21 percent).

Eight of the top 10 metros with the highest foreclosure rates during the first quarter were in California. Stockton and Modesto topped the list with foreclosure filing rates of 1 in 60 housing units each.

Stockton topped the list despite a 13.3 percent decline in the foreclosure rate from the previous quarter, and an 18.9 percent drop from a year ago. Modesto saw similar improvement, with an 8.14 percent drop in foreclosure activity for the quarter and a 21.48 percent plunge for the year.

Top 10 U.S. metros with highest foreclosure rates, first quarter 2012

Area Foreclosure rate (First Quarter 2012)
U.S. 1 in 230 housing units
Stockton, Calif. 1 in 60
Modesto, Calif. 1 in 60
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. 1 in 62
Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif. 1 in 63
Merced, Calif. 1 in 72
Sacramento-Arden Arcade-Roseville, Calif. 1 in 77
Bakersfield, Calif. 1 in 81
Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev. 1 in 82
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. 1 in 87
Visalia-Porterville, Calif. 1 in 89

Source: RealtyTrac

Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., topped RealtyTrac’s list of foreclosure activity in the nation’s 50 largest metros, with 1 in 62 of its housing units in some stage of foreclosure during the first quarter of 2012. 

Seven other metros among the nation’s 50 largest had foreclosure rates more than twice the national average: Sacramento, Calif. (one in 77 housing units), Las Vegas (one in 82 housing units), Phoenix (one in 87 housing units), Atlanta (one in 90 housing units), Miami (one in 95 housing units), Orlando (one in 101 housing units), and Chicago (one in 107 housing units).

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