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Relentless rise in US foreclosures continues as moratoriums come to an end

The latest figures from RealtyTrac show that filings, including default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions rose by 9% in the first quarter of 2009. The rate of increase is expected to continue as moratoriums come to an end.

In the last year there has been an increase of 24% in filings overall. California, Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Illinois accounted for 60% of the nation's total foreclosure activity volume. On a national scale, one in every 159 US housing units received a foreclosure filing during the quarter. Nevada and California boasted the highest foreclosure filing rates. One in every 27 Nevada housing units and one in every 54 California housing units received a foreclosure filing in the quarter, according to the report.

There were plenty of states, however, with rates more than six times lower than the national rate. Vermont boasted the lowest rate of the quarter, with one in every 14,830 properties receiving a foreclosure filing. RealtyTrac designated Vermont one of 10 states with a rate of more than 1,000 homes for every one foreclosure filing.

Of the nine other states including Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North and South Dakota and Wyoming, South Dakota boasted the second lowest filing rate, with one foreclosure filing in every 3,721 homes in the quarter.

March alone posted record highs in foreclosure activity, with 341,180 properties receiving foreclosure filings, a 17% increase from February and 46% year-over-year increase from March 2008. These are the highest monthly and quarterly totals recorded since RealtyTrac began reporting in 2005.

'In the month of March we saw a record level of foreclosure activity. The number of households that received a foreclosure filing was more than 12% higher than the next highest month on record,' said CEO James Saccacio.

'Since much of this activity was in new foreclosure actions, it suggests that many lenders and servicers were holding off on executing foreclosures due to industry moratoria and legislative delays,' he added.

Realty Trac expects the upward trend to continue. 'These delays, rather than current foreclosure prevention programmes, likely drove decreased real estate owned activity, and therefore it's very likely that we'll see the number of REOs increase again now that most of the moratoria have been lifted,' Saccacio explained.

Housing demand, especially for bank owned properties seen as bargains, appears to be on the rise. 'But it's unlikely that this increased demand will be enough to offset the growing number of foreclosures in the pipeline, accelerated by rising unemployment rates,' he added.

One county as postponed all foreclosure hearings because of the demand. Cook County, Illinois, the second most populous county in the US which includes the city of Chicago, has a backlog of tens of thousands of foreclosure cases. New cases have been suspended until September with the only exception any case where a property has been verified as both vacant and abandoned.