Hopes for a rebound in U.S. housing during March may have been premature, given new data released Tuesday morning which found that foreclosure filings — including default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions — were recorded on 234,685 properties nationwide during March. The total for the month was a five percent rise from February levels, and a 57 percent jump compared to one year earlier, according to RealtyTrac’s U.S. Foreclosure Market Report. “The March numbers show that overall foreclosure activity so far this year continues to run nearly 60 percent above the levels we saw last year,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. Saccacio said that he believed the data suggested that borrowers were simply walking away from their mortgages.

RealtyTrac foreclosure map, March 2008

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“On a year-over-year basis, default notices were up nearly 57 percent and bank repossessions were up nearly 129 percent, but auction notices were up only 32 percent, indicating that more defaulting homeowners are simply walking away and deeding their properties back to the foreclosing lender,” Saccacio said. “This deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure process allows the lender to take possession of a property without putting it up for public foreclosure auction.” The nation’s highest foreclosure rates for the month — as measured against statewide population levels — were recorded in Nevada, California and Florida. Nevada’s rate of foreclosure, one in every 139 households, ranked as the nation’s highest for the 15th consecutive month, underscoring just how bad things have gotten for one former epicenter of the housing boom. Foreclosure filings were reported on a total of 7,659 properties in Nevada during the month, RealtyTrac said, up 24 percent from the previous month and up nearly 62 percent from March 2007. One in every 204 California households received a foreclosure filing in March, according to RealtyTrac data — 2.6 times the national average — and one in every 282 Florida households received a foreclosure filing during the month — 1.9 times the national average. Foreclosures soar in California, Florida, Ohio Foreclosure filings were reported on 64,711 California properties in March, the most of any state for the 15th consecutive month, RealtyTrac reported. Foreclosure activity in the Golden State increased nearly 21 percent from the previous month, and has more than doubled the volume recorded in March 2007. Florida posted the nation’s second highest total, with foreclosure filings reported on 30,254 properties in March — down 7 percent from the previous month, but still more than double last year’s numbers. Texas, usually among the nation’s leaders in foreclosures each month, saw a welcome respite of sorts during March. Foreclosure filings were reported on a total of 10,700 properties in the Lone Star state for the month, a nearly 13 percent decrease from February and a 16 percent decrease from year-ago numbers. For more information, visit http://www.realtytrac.com.

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