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Foreclosure activity falls in the US during January

The latest figures from real estate data firm RealtyTrac shows that foreclosure activity was still 18% higher than a year earlier, the 37th consecutive month with a year-over-year increase.

However, home foreclosure filings in January totalled 274,399, down 10% from December, and the figures provides a glimmer of hope for the hard-hit US property market as well as indicating that measures to reduce the defaults are at last working.

'The extensive foreclosure efforts on the part of lenders and government agencies appear to have impacted the January numbers,' said James Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac.

It would appear that the efforts by mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to help struggling property owners and introducing a moratorium on all foreclosure sales is working. Also efforts at a state level such as Florida's voluntary 45 day freeze on all new foreclosure actions is having an impact. Overall foreclosure activity in Florida was down 20% in January from the previous month.

In December, foreclosure filings were up 17% from the previous month and up nearly 41% from December 2007, so there is still some way to go. There are also concerns that temporary moratoriums and voluntary freezes, while have a positive impact will have the reverse effect when they come to an end.

Also RealtyTrac points out that the figures do not include many homes that have been taken back by banks and have not yet been included in the data and this will show up in the months ahead.

Nevada's foreclosure activity also decreased, down 4% from the previous month but continued to register the highest rate in the country, with one foreclosure filing for every 76 households.

California foreclosure activity in January decreased 14% from the previous month, but the state continued to register the nation's second highest state foreclosure rate. One in every 173 California households received a foreclosure filing during the month.

California, the most populous U.S. state, reported 76,761 foreclosure filings, the most of any state and up 34 percent from January 2008.

Arizona ranked third highest in the nation with one foreclosure filing for every 182 households in January, with 14,674 filings, down 8% from December.

Florida ranked fourth highest in the nation with one foreclosure filing for every 214 households in January, with 40,770 filings, down nearly 20% from December.