Foreclosure activity in U.S. falls in July

Foreclosure activity in July was down, especially in California, compared with last year, according to data released Thursday. But nationwide it was up slightly from June.

Default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions were reported for 325,229 properties in the U.S. in July, according to Irvine research firm RealtyTrac. Compared with the same month last year, that was down 10%.

“It’s not so much a sign that the housing market is righting itself as a sign that the various foreclosure prevention efforts, including government-sponsored loan modification, refinance and short sale programs, are being implemented more aggressively by lenders,” said Daren Blomquist, a spokesman for the company.

But things are still shaky, with total foreclosure filings jumping 4% from June. Although the number of default notices compared with year-earlier numbers have been slipping for six months, bank repossessions have been booming for eight months to near record levels.

And the volatility will continue as lenders try to push distressed properties into foreclosure prevention programs, according to RealtyTrac.

“Those alternatives will not work in every case, resulting in a bit of a rollercoaster ride in the foreclosure numbers over the next several months,” Blomquist said.”

California still has the most filings of any state, with 21% of the national total and the fourth-highest foreclosure rate in the country. July’s total of 66,910 affected properties, however, is 38% lower than a year earlier.

Six of the top 10 metropolitan areas with the highest foreclosure rates are in California: Modesto, Merced, the Riverside- San Bernardino- Ontario region, Stockton, Bakersfield and the Vallejo and Fairfield pocket.

For the 43rd straight month, Nevada had the highest rate among states, with 1 in every 82 homes hit with a foreclosure filing. At 13,727 properties, that was still 30% lower than July 2009. The Las Vegas and Paradise area’s foreclosure rate — five times the national average at 1 in every 71 housing units — was the highest among major population centers.