Foreclosure activity increased in January with filings up 8 percent from December on a nationwide basis.  RealtyTrac reported today there was a total of 124,419 foreclosure filings of various types during the month, a filing for one in every 1,058 U.S. households.  This was a drop of 18 percent from the number of filings in January 2013.  RealtyTrac reports on initial foreclosure filings in three categories; default notices (NOD or LIS), scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions or REO.

January marked the 40th consecutive month where U.S. foreclosure activity declined on an annual basis, but the annual decline of 18 percent was the smallest annual decline since September 2012, and the 8 percent monthly increase was the biggest month-over-month increase since May 2012.

"The monthly increase in January foreclosure activity was somewhat expected after a holiday lull, but the sharp annual increases in some states shows that many states are not completely out of the woods when it comes to cleaning up the wreckage of the housing bust," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. "The foreclosure rebound pattern is not only showing up in judicial states like New Jersey, where foreclosure activity reached a 40-month high in January, but also some non-judicial states like California, where foreclosure starts jumped 57 percent from a year ago, following 17 consecutive months of annual decreases."

Foreclosure starts were up 10 percent from December to a total of 57,259.  This was 12 percent below the level a year earlier and the 18th consecutive months that starts decreased on an annual basis.  Even though foreclosure starts were down nationally they increased on an annual basis in 22 states, rising 126 percent in Maryland, 82 percent in Connecticut and 79 percent in New Jersey.  California and Pennsylvania also had big annual increases, 57 percent and 39 percent respectively.

Scheduled foreclosure auctions (which are also foreclosure starts in some states) increased 13 percent in January compared to the previous month but were still down 8 percent from a year ago.  But again more than half the states bucked the national number with 27 posting an increase in scheduled auctions compared to January 2013.  These filings were up 326 percent in Oregon, 223 percent in Connecticut and 113 percent in Maryland.  New York and Nevada each saw increases of 73 percent. 

A total of 30,226 properties were repossessed by lenders (REO) in January, down 4 percent from the previous month and 40 percent from January 2013 to the lowest level since July 2007 - a 78-month low.  REO activity increased 118 percent in New York, 93 percent in Oklahoma, and 75 percent in Connecticut and was up in nine other states as well.

The state with the highest foreclosure rate in January was Florida which increased 19 percent from December but was down 13 percent from a year earlier.  A 43 percent January spike in scheduled auctions kept Nevada in second place.  January brought the 19th consecutive year-over-year increase in overall foreclosure activity to Maryland putting it in third place.  Illinois, and New Jersey were fourth and fifth in the nation for foreclosure filings.  The large metropolitan areas with the highest rates of foreclosure were Miami, Tampa, Chicago, Baltimore and Riverside-San Bernardino.