Foreclosure filings including default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions rose 7 percent in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the third quarter of 2009 and were up 16 percent from the first quarter one year ago.  This information came today in a report from RealtyTrac, the Irvine California company that tracks the foreclosure market.

Legal actions were filed against 932,234 properties during the quarter; one in every 138 U.S. housing units received a filing during the period.  In March alone there were 367,056 filings, an increase of nearly 19 percent over February and 8 percent above the rate one year earlier.  This is the highest monthly total since RealtyTrac issued its first report in January 2005.

The pattern of filings, however, offered a glimmer of hope that things getting better.  Default notices were received on 304,799 properties but this was an increase of only 1 percent from the previous quarter and was 1 percent lower than in the first quarter of 2009.  It was also down 11 percent from the peak of 342,000 default notices filed in the third quarter of 2009. 

The biggest increases were first notices of scheduled auctions and actual repossessions, both signifying the final stages of the process.  Auctions were scheduled on 369,491 properties, an increase of 12 percent from the previous quarter and 21 percent from one year earlier, and set a new high mark for the filings.  Bank repossessions also hit a record high with 257,944 properties repossessed by the lender during the quarter, up 9 percent from the previous quarter and a whopping 35 percent from the first quarter of 2009.

James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac said of the report, "Foreclosure activity in the first quarter of 2010 followed a very similar pattern to what we saw in the first quarter of 2009: a shallow trough in January and February followed by a substantial spike in March. One difference, however, is that the increases were more tilted toward the final stage of foreclosure, with REOs increasing 9 percent on a quarterly basis in the first quarter of 2010 compared to a 13 percent quarterly decrease in REOs in the first quarter of 2009."

"This subtle shift in the numbers pushed REOs to the highest quarterly total we've ever seen in our report and may be further evidence that lenders are starting to make a dent in the backlog of distressed inventory that has built up over the last year as foreclosure prevention programs and processing delays slowed down the normal foreclosure timeline."

As usual, Nevada had the highest number of filings with 34,557, or one in every 33, housing units in the state receiving some type of filing, more than four times the national average and an increase of 15 percent from Quarter Four.  This is the 13th consecutive quarter that Nevada has had the dubious honor of leading the nation in filings; however, the state's rate was 16 percent lower than one year earlier.

Arizona was again in second place for the third consecutive quarter with one in 49 properties receiving a filing.  Florida recorded filings on one in 57 properties, and California ranked fourth with one in every 62 housing units affected.  California filings, however, were down 6 percent from one year earlier.

In Utah, foreclosure activity was up 21 percent for the quarter and 75 percent from one year earlier.  Nearly 11,000 properties received filings, one of every 88 housing units

In actual numbers, ten states accounted for more than 70 percent of all foreclosures in the country.  California alone had 23 percent of all activity with 216,263 properties receiving a notice during the quarter.  Florida was second with 153,540 filings and Arizona third with 55,686 filings.

RealtyTrac issues its report based on the total number of properties in its database receiving at least one filing during the month or quarter.  Data is collected from more than 2,200 counties nationwide, accounting for more than 90 percent of the U.S. population.