|U.S. foreclosure filings increased last month, though year-over-year performance has been on the mend each month for more than a year now. New filings fell, however, in California -- the state with the most activity. Meanwhile, U.S. mortgage servicers completed fewer foreclosures than in December.
There were 210,941 U.S. properties owned by delinquent borrowers that were hit with a foreclosure during January. Filings included notices of default, scheduled auctions and repossessions.
Foreclosures worsened from 205,024 in December.
In January of last year, 261,333 properties faced a foreclosure filing. It was the 16th consecutive month of year-over-year improvement.
RealtyTrac, which reported the data, said its findings were based on data collected from more than 2,200 U.S. counties that make up more than 90 percent of the nation's population.
"We continue to see signs on a local and regional level that the frozen-up foreclosure process is beginning to thaw," RealtyTrac Chief Executive Officer Brandon Moore said in the report.
Moore predicted that foreclosure filings will increase in the coming months.
California, which is the state with the biggest number of foreclosures, saw filings fall to 51,584 from December's 52,808.
But in No. 2 Florida, foreclosures increased to 24,783 from 24,576 the previous month.
Illinois followed with 14,349 filings, then 12,808 in Michigan and 12,467 in Georgia.
In North Dakota, just five properties had a foreclosure filing, the fewest of any state.
Last month's activity meant that one filing was made for every 624 U.S. housing units. The rate deteriorated from one-in-634 during December but was better than one filing made for each 497 housing units in January 2011.
Nevada maintained its standing as the state with the worst rate: one foreclosure filing on each 198 properties. But the Silver State improved from December's one-in-177 rate.
California's one-in-265 rate was the second-worst, about the same as one-in-254 a month earlier.
Next was Arizona's one-in-325 rate, then Georgia's one in 328 and Michigan's one in 354.
At only one filing on each 63,500 properties, North Dakota had the best rate in the country.
Moving on to real-estate-owned filings, the nation saw 66,542 foreclosures completed last month, worse than 61,744 repossessions in December but fewer than the 78,133 REO filings in the same month last year.
With 10,064 mortgages converted to REO in January, the Golden State again was in the worst position. But California REOs eased from 10,128 in the final month of last year.
Florida repossessions rose to 7,607 from 7,360, landing the Sunshine State in the No. 2 spot.
After that was 5,406 REO filings in Georgia, 4,409 in Illinois and 4,350 in Arizona.
All of North Dakota's five foreclosure filings were REO, leaving it with the fewest completed foreclosures.