Foreclosure activity climbed in three-quarters of the nation's largest metro areas in the first half of the year compared to the same time a year ago, however Foreclosure Properties declined in some of the hardest hit regions, RealtyTrac reported on Thursday.
The report found that 154 of the 206 metro areas with a population of 200,000 or more posted year-over-year increases in foreclosure activity, which covers everything from the time borrowers, receive a default to the sale of the property via auction or on the traditional real estate market.
The 20 areas with the worst foreclosure rates were in the four states that were most devastated by the housing crisis -- Florida, California, Nevada and Arizona. Those were the states where prices climbed the fastest during the boom years and therefore crashed the hardest. Nine of the areas on the top 20 list were in Florida, eight in California, two in Nevada and one in Arizona.
Foreclosure actions took place on more than 1.6 million properties in the first half of the year, the company said. Even in the areas where foreclosures rates are down, the rates still remain three to five times higher than the national average.
Foreclosures tend to drag down home prices, complicating the housing market's struggle to recover. The housing rebound that economists once expected in the last half of this year will most likely not come so soon. The nation's stubbornly high unemployment rate and the lenders' increased willingness to sell more foreclosed properties to the public will most likely increase the number of foreclosures hitting the market.
For a period, lenders held onto homes they had foreclosed upon as they came under political pressure to try and modify the loans of troubled borrowers. But as they get a better handle on which loans are unsalvageable, lenders are starting to complete more foreclosures and put them on the market, several economists have said.
But there are early signs that foreclosure activity may have peaked in some of the most troubled regions, James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac's chief executive, said in a statement. Foreclosure activity dropped in nine of the top 10 most severely affected areas.
The Las Vegas area still has the nation's highest foreclosure rate, with 6.6 percent of its housing units (or 53,525 properties) receiving a foreclosure filing in the first half of the year. But that's a 15 percent decrease from the comparable period a year ago and a 9 percent decrease from the first half of the year.
Foreclosure activity in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla. metro area, which had the nation's second highest metro foreclosure rate at 4.98 percent, also slipped. The foreclosure rate there in the first half of the year is down 30 percent from a year ago and 22 percent from the previous six months.
The report collects data from 2,200 counties nationwide that make up more than 90 percent of the U.S. population. Some of the Foreclosure Properties filings captured in the first half of this year may have been recorded in previous time periods.