Parsing foreclosure data in search of trends is becoming increasingly difficult as evidenced by the RealtyTrac's October U.S. Foreclosure market Report.  Basic numbers of foreclosure related filings are getting more and more conflated by local situations such as the type of foreclosure process followed in a particular state, new consumer laws, and now the impact of Hurricane Sandy which hit at the very end of the current reporting period but will apparently be felt strongly in coming months. 

RealtyTrac reports that foreclosure filings across the three categories totaled 186,455 in October.  This is an increase of 3 percent from September but is 19 percent lower than one year earlier.  One in every 706 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing during October.

The first two categories, foreclosure starts/default notices and scheduled auctions were filed for the first time on 89,209 U.S. properties, a 2 percent increase from September but still down 19 percent from October 2011 - the third straight month with an annual decrease in foreclosure starts.

Lenders completed the foreclosure process on 53,478 U.S. properties in October, down less than 1 percent from the previous month but 21 percent lower than in October 2011.  It was the 24th straight month with an annual decrease in REO activity.

 "We continued to see vastly different foreclosure trends across the country in October, depending primarily on how each state's foreclosing infrastructure was able to handle the high volume of delinquent loans during the worst of the foreclosure crisis in 2010," said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac."Unfortunately the three states dealing with the biggest rebound in deferred foreclosure activity - New Jersey, New York and Connecticut - also had to deal with the devastation to homes inflicted by super storm Sandy. The foreclosure moratoriums being put into effect as a result of the storm will likely extend the already-lengthy time to foreclose in these states, further prolonging a fundamentally sound housing recovery."

In the 34 counties in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York that are being given individual assistance by FEMA, a total of 6,380 properties had foreclosure filings in October (the storm struck the area on October 29) down 8 percent from September but an increase of 92 percent from October 2011.  Despite the sharp year-over-year increase, the foreclosure rate in those counties combined was less than half the national average: one in every 1,467 housing units with a foreclosure filing.  All three states are judicial foreclosure states and have had these very high inventories of homes in the process of foreclosure for some time and exceptionally long periods of delinquency leading to those foreclosures.  At the end of October, total inventory of properties in some stage of foreclosure or bank owned in these counties was 124,608, up 15 percent from the previous month and up 54 percent from October 2011. The estimated combined market value of foreclosure inventory in the impacted counties was more than $41 billion.

Fannie Mae owned the biggest percentage of REO inventory of any lender in the impacted counties in all three states, with 29 percent in New York, 25 percent in New Jersey, and 22 percent in Connecticut. Other lenders with large percentages of REO inventory in the impacted counties included Wells Fargo, US BankCorp and Deutsche Bank. 

The three states with the biggest annual increases in foreclosure activity in October were again those three states most affected by Sandy, New Jersey (140 percent), New York (123 percent) and Connecticut (41 percent). Other states with sizable increases were Maryland (27 percent), Ohio (24 percent) and Illinois (19 percent).

Florida posted the nation's highest foreclosure rate for the second month in a row, with one in every 312 housing units with a foreclosure filing in October, more than twice the national average.  It was followed by Nevada, Illinois, California and Arizona.