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CA REOs Tumble

Foreclosure

A big drop in California repossessions fueled a national improvement. Overall foreclosure filings improved on a monthly basis but were still higher than a year ago.

Last month, foreclosures were filed on 308,524 U.S. properties, RealtyTrac reported today. Filings eased from 315,716 in January but were higher than 290,631 in February 2009.

Year-to-date Feb. 28, foreclosures were filed on 624,240 properties.

The Irvine, Calif., foreclosure listing service noted that filings include default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions. The figures reflect data collected from more than 2,200 counties that account for more than 90 percent of U.S. population.

“This leveling of the foreclosure trend is not necessarily evidence that fewer homeowners are in distress and at risk for foreclosure, but rather that foreclosure prevention programs, legislation and other processing delays are in effect capping monthly foreclosure activity — albeit at a historically high level that will likely continue for an extended period,” RealtyTrac Chief Executive Officer James J. Saccacio said in the report. “In addition, severe winter weather appears to have temporarily slowed the processing of foreclosure records.”

California continued to account for the biggest share of foreclosures, with 68,562 properties facing foreclosure in February. The Golden State saw 71,817 filings the prior month.

Florida followed, with 54,032 February filings — then 20,028 in Michigan, 17,312 in Illinois and 16,718 in Arizona. With just eight properties that were hit with a foreclosure, Vermont had the fewest.

A foreclosure was filed on one out of every 418 U.S. borrowers last month. February’s rate marked an improvement from January’s one-in-409 households though it was worse than one filing for every 440 U.S. properties in the previous year.

Nevada’s one-in-102 rate was worse than any other state but better than the one-in-95 rate during January. In Las Vegas, last month’s rate was one-in-90 — the highest of any metropolitan area.

Florida and Arizona both had a one-in-163 rate, while California’s rate was one-in-195 and No. 5 Michigan’s rate was one-in-226.

Vermont’s one-in-39,077 rate was the best in the nation.

U.S. real-estate-owned filings also improved in February. REOs fell to 78,683 from 87,648 filed during January. But compared to a year earlier, REOs worsened to 74,095.

So far this year, 166,331 REOs have been filed.

Repossessions were highest in California — though they tumbled to 12,546 from January’s 17,001. California’s decline represented half of the U.S. improvement in February. REOs in the state also improved from a year ago, when 18,872 home were repossessed.

Michigan’s 7,586 REOs last month placed it in the No. 2 slot, and Florida came in third with 6,992 repossessions. Arizona’s 6,053 followed, then 4,854 in Texas.

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