NEW YORK U.S. home foreclosure filings in April edged up from March and were a whopping 65 percent higher than a year earlier, real estate data firm RealtyTrac said on Wednesday.
Home foreclosure filings in April totaled 243,353, up 4 percent from March, RealtyTrac, an online market of foreclosure properties, said in its U.S. Foreclosure Market Report. The figure is a total of default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions.
"The total number of U.S. properties with foreclosure activity in April was the highest monthly total we've seen since we began issuing the report in January 2005," James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, said in a statement.
In March, home foreclosure filings had risen 5 percent from February.
The surge in foreclosures indicates an increasing number of homeowners are struggling to make mortgage payments amid the worst U.S. housing market downturn since the Great Depression.
RealtyTrac, based in Irvine, California, said the national foreclosure rate in April was one foreclosure filing for every 519 U.S. households.
"These properties contribute to already bloated inventories of homes for sale, and put downward pressure on home values," Saccacio said, adding that the nationwide foreclosure rate could reach 2 percent by the end of the year.
"Areas of California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona continue to be particularly hard-hit," he said.
Nevada, despite a 5 percent month-over-month decrease in foreclosure activity in April, had the highest foreclosure rate in the country, with one filing for every 146 households, followed by California and Arizona.
All three states had been among the hottest U.S. housing markets during the boom years from 2000 to 2005.
Default rates and foreclosures have jumped over the past year as the housing market deteriorated. As interest rates on adjustable rate mortgages reset higher, many homeowners who have been unable to sell their homes or refinance existing home loans amid a drop in home prices have been forced into foreclosure.
Nevada had 7,276 foreclosure filings in April, up 95 percent from April 2007.
California's foreclosure activity was down less than 1 percent from the previous month, but it still ranked second highest in the nation with one filing for every 204 households.
California, the most populous U.S. state, reported 64,683 foreclosure filings, the most of any state and up 112 percent from April 2007.
Saccacio noted that this also meant an erosion of property tax bases, which was putting municipal budgets in peril.
"For example, the city council in Vallejo, California - part of a metropolitan area with a foreclosure rate that ranked sixth highest in the nation in April - last week voted to have the city file for bankruptcy," he said.
The city council of Vallejo, California voted last week to approve a petition for a bankruptcy filing for their former Navy town, which has seen revenues decline amid the housing slump while its employee costs have ballooned.
The vote positions Vallejo, a town of more than 100,000 residents along a main highway between San Francisco and the state capital of Sacramento, to become the first sizeable city in California to file for bankruptcy.
Arizona ranked third highest in the nation with one foreclosure filing for every 224 households in April, with 11,620 filings, up 26 percent from March and 181 percent higher than a year earlier, RealtyTrac said.
Florida ranked fourth highest in the nation with one foreclosure filing for every 242 households in April, with 35,264 filings, up nearly 17 percent from March and 146 percent higher than a year earlier, RealtyTrac said.
(Reporting by Julie Haviv, Additional Reporting by Jim Christie, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)