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RealtyTrac: Foreclosures see first year-over-year increase since 2010

But overall activity drops to lowest quarterly level since 2007

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Foreclosure activity — which includes default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — rose 4% in March over the previous year’s total, according to a new report from RealtyTrac. The jump marked the first year-over-year increase in foreclosure activity since September 2010.

RealtyTrac’s Q1 and March 2015 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report showed that March saw foreclosure filings jump 20% over February’s total, but February’s foreclosure activity actually hit a 104-month low, so the jump is not quite as dramatic as it seems.

According to RealtyTrac, the increase in March was driven primarily by a jump in bank repossessions, which at 36,152 were up 49% from the previous month and up 25% from a year ago to a 17-month high, but that total was still about one-third of the 102,134 REOs in September 2010, the peak month for REOs.

Despite the increase in March, overall foreclosure activity in the first quarter actually fell to the lowest level since the first quarter of 2007, RealtyTrac said in the report.

According to RealtyTrac’s report, there were foreclosure activities reported on 313,487 U.S. properties in the first quarter of 2015, down 7% from the previous quarter and down 8% from the first quarter of 2014 to the lowest quarterly total since the first quarter of 2007.

“The 17-month high in bank repossessions in March corresponds to a 17-month high in scheduled foreclosures auctions in October,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “

"The March increase is continued cleanup of distress still lingering from the previous housing crisis; not the beginning of a new crisis by any means,” Blomquist continued. “Some of the most stubborn foreclosure cases are finally being flushed out of the foreclosure pipeline, and we would expect to see more noise in the numbers over the next few months as national foreclosure activity makes its way back to more stable patterns by the end of this year.”

Despite the spike in March, bank repossessions in the first quarter were still down from a year ago. Lenders repossessed 82,081 properties during the quarter, up 7% from the previous quarter but still down 14% from a year ago, RealtyTrac said.

According to the report, a total of 152,147 U.S. properties started the foreclosure process for the first time in the first quarter of 2015, down 11% from the previous quarter and down 8% from a year ago.

On a more local level, states where first-quarter foreclosure starts actually increased from a year ago included Massachusetts (up 58%), Virginia (up 11%), Michigan (up 11%), and Illinois (up 8%).

States where first quarter bank repossessions increased from a year ago, counter to the national trend, included Ohio (up 54%), Maryland (up 39%), Missouri (up 34%), New Jersey (up 18%), and Illinois (up 16%).

States with the highest foreclosure rates in the first quarter were Florida, Maryland, Nevada, Illinois, and New Jersey.

Among metropolitan statistical areas with a population of 200,000 or more, those with the highest foreclosure rates were Atlantic City, New Jersey; Rockford, Illinois; Ocala, Florida; Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida; and Miami.

A total of 53,514 properties started the foreclosure process in March, up 11% from the previous month but still down 4% from a year ago, RealtyTrac said.

A total of 50,760 properties were scheduled for foreclosure auction in March, up 11% from the previous month and up less than 1% from a year ago.

Properties that completed the foreclosure process in the first quarter took an average of 620 days to complete the foreclosure process, up from 604 days on average in the previous quarter and up from 572 days in the first quarter of 2014.

States with the longest average days to complete foreclosure for foreclosures completed in the first quarter were New York (1,475 days), New Jersey (1,115 days), Hawaii (1,058 days), Florida (975 days), and Kansas (963 days).

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