The number of U.S. residential properties entering foreclosure has risen for each of the past four quarters.
On a national basis, 323,102 properties entered some stage of foreclosure, up 38 percent from the fourth quarter and 72 percent above the first quarter 2005, RealtyTrac said Monday its first quarter U.S. Foreclosure Market Report.
The foreclosure rate in the quarter was one new foreclosure for every 358 U.S. households -- higher than in any quarter last year, RealtyTrac said in the announcement.
"The sharp increase in foreclosures in Q1 continues a steady upward trend that we've observed since the beginning of last year," ReatlyTrac Chief Executive James J. Saccacio said in the announcement. "Foreclosures have now increased in four consecutive quarters and are on track to go above 1.2 million in 2006, which would push the nation's annual foreclosure rate to more than 1 percent of U.S. households."
He did note, however, that the 13 percent drop from February to March is evidence that the nation's foreclosure rate could be leveling off.
"With the current market conditions, it's unlikely that foreclosures will return to the historically low levels they were at in recent years when interest rates hit rock bottom and home price appreciation skyrocketed in many areas of the country," he added. "But it's possible that foreclosures will flatten or even move a bit lower this Spring if more buyers and investors enter the market, giving homeowners in distress a better chance of selling their properties to avoid going into default or foreclosure."
Out of all states, the highest quarterly foreclosure rate belonged to Georgia, with one new foreclosure for every 127 households, as properties entering foreclosure more than doubled from the fourth quarter to 24,419, RealtyTrac reported.
Colorado held the second highest rate -- one new foreclosure for every 138 households -- with the total 13,267 properties entering a stage of foreclosure also coming at more than twice the number reported in the previous quarter, according to the announcement.
The third highest rate was in Indiana, where there was one new foreclosure for every 165 households. From quarter-to-quarter, the number of properties jumped 84 percent to 15,261, RealtyTrac reported.
Rhode Island held the lowest foreclosure rate, with 1 for every 48,871 households, followed by New Hampshire and Maine, the announcement said.