February 11th, 2010 10:17 AM by Lehel S.
A total of 315,716 U.S. homes were mired in the foreclosure process in January, a 10% decline from foreclosure activity measured in December, a real estate firm will report Thursday.That number is still 15% above the level of foreclosure activity reported by RealtyTrac in January 2009. The report by the company, which sells foreclosure information to consumers online, shows that 1 in 409 U.S. homes last month was listed in a foreclosure filing -- default notices, scheduled auctions or bank repossessions.Completed foreclosures increased 31% from January 2009, even though they dropped 5% from the previous month.The sharp year-over-year increase is a sign that a backlog of defaulting properties may be entering the final foreclosure phase after several national and local moratoriums expired and the government's efforts to permanently lower mortgage payments for thousands of Americans failed, RealtyTrac Senior Vice President Rick Sharga said."The real spike was in bank repossessions," Sharga said. "And that suggests to me that some of the processing delays that we saw keeping numbers down may be ending."Default notices were down 12% from the previous month but were up 4% from January 2009. Scheduled foreclosure auctions were down 11% from the previous month but up 15% from January 2009.California, Florida and Arizona posted the highest state numbers of properties receiving foreclosure filings in January. Together those states accounted for more than 44% of the national total, according to RealtyTrac.