U.S. home foreclosures jumped 12% last month, but the sharp divide between states suggests the industry remains backlogged by investigations into the foreclosure process.
According to a report from real estate data firm RealtyTrac, lenders foreclosed on 78,133 properties in January, up 12% from the month before, but down 11% from January a year ago.
Bank seizures at states with non-judicial foreclosure processes jumped 23%, while states with a judicial process saw a decrease of 7%.
"It suggests the system is still frozen up. We should have seen a much larger increase in both overall activity and bank repossession," said Rick Sharga, senior vice president at RealtyTrac.
"The numbers will inevitably go up, it's just a question of will it be sooner or will it be later."
The number of foreclosure filings, which includes default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, rose 1% to 261,333 in January. Compared to January last year, filings are down 17%.
The report also showed 1 in every 497 houses received a foreclosure filing during the month. Five states -- California, Florida, Michigan, Arizona and Illinois -- continued to account for more than half of all foreclosure filings. California alone accounted for more than one quarter.
Nevada, Arizona and California also had the highest foreclosure rates. Nevada had the country's highest foreclosure rate for the forty-ninth month in a row. One in every 93 Nevada homes received a foreclosure filing in January, more than five times the national average, RealtyTrac said.
Ongoing foreclosures are a major headwind for a market that is already struggling with a glut of unsold houses. Data from Zillow Inc earlier in the week showed the number of single-family homes where the mortgage is worth more than the home increased to 27% in the fourth quarter from 23.2% the previous quarter, suggesting more potential foreclosures to come.