An annual report of foreclosure activity in the U.S. found the number of properties subject to default notices, scheduled auctions or bank repossessions in 2011 dropped 34 percent from the previous year, according to a RealtyTrac report released today. In addition to the overall decline in foreclosures, the report found that December activity was at the lowest level since August 2007. However, the report cautions 2012 could likely see an upswing in activity.

Nevada leads nation in foreclosures

For the fifth straight year, Nevada recorded the most foreclosure activity of any state in the nation. While 1.45 percent of housing units nationwide had at least one foreclosure filing in 2011, the Nevada rate was 6 percent. That translates into foreclosure filings for 1 in 16 housing units in the state.

Despite having the distinction of the country's highest foreclosure rate, the situation in Nevada has improved significantly from years past. Foreclosure activity in 2011 was down 31 percent from that of 2010. Default notice filings dropped 70 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter. However, that decrease may be largely attributed to a change in Nevada state law that requires an additional affidavit before beginning the foreclosure process.

Other states with an above-average percentage of homes with at least one foreclosure filing in 2011 represent almost every region except New England:

  • Arizona - 4.14 percent
  • California - 3.19 percent
  • Georgia - 2.71 percent
  • Michigan - 2.21 percent
  • Florida - 2.06 percent
  • Illinois - 1.95 percent
  • Colorado - 1.78 percent
  • Idaho - 1.77 percent

2012 may bring more foreclosures

While the declining foreclosure rate might be cause for optimism, RealtyTrac says there may be an uptick in activity for 2012. As states grapple with how best to help homeowners redeem home loans in default, the timeline for foreclosures has lengthened. The time to complete the foreclosure process has increased 24 percent since the third quarter of 2010 when concerns about fraudulent documentation appeared in some markets.

"There were strong signs in the second half of 2011 that lenders are finally beginning to push through some of the delayed foreclosures in select local markets," said Brandon Moore, CEO of RealtyTrac. "We expect that trend to continue this year, boosting foreclosure activity for 2012 higher than it was in 2011, though still below the peak of 2010."

While the housing market continues to struggle, homeowners can take proactive efforts to prevent the possibility of a foreclosure. Property owners with equity in their mortgages may be eligible to refinance their home loans and lower their payments. In addition, lender and government mortgage programs may be able to help those with negative equity.

The Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a network of non-profits, staffs a free HOPE Hotline to help homeowners explore their options. The hotline can be reached toll-free at 1-888-995-HOPE.

The original article can be found at Money-Rates.com:
Foreclosures hit 49-month low in December