In its first-ever U.S. Foreclosure Inventory Analysis, RealtyTrac revealed that 1.5 million U.S. properties were actively in the foreclosure process or bank-owned in the first quarter of 2013.

This number was up 9% from the first quarter of 2012, but still down 32% from 2.2 million in December 2010, which represents the peak.

"Delinquent loans that fell into a deep sleep after the robo-signing controversy in late 2010 are gradually coming out of hibernation following the finalization of the national mortgage settlement in April 2012," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

Blomquist notes that the settlement provided some closure regarding accepted foreclosure processing practices, and as a result lenders have been reviving more of these delinquent loans and pushing them into foreclosure over the past 12 months, particularly in states where a lengthy court process has resulted in a bigger backlog of non-performing loans still in snooze mode.

According to data from RealtyTrac, the yearly increase in foreclosure activity nationwide was due to a 59% spike in pre-foreclosure inventory. However, the pool of homes scheduled for foreclosure action dropped 25% and inventory of bank-owned homes fell 3%.

Inventory behavior fell nearly even, with 26 states reporting annual increases in foreclosures, while 24 states (along with the District of Columbia) posting annual decreases, the data shows.

Excluding bank-owned properties, 35% of properties actively in the foreclosure process sat vacant.

Listed foreclosure inventory plummeted 43% nationwide from year-ago numbers, while unlisted inventory rose 12%.

mhopkins@housingwire.com