WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bank repossessions rose again last month, driving overall U.S. foreclosure activity to a 19-month high on an annual basis, industry firm RealtyTrac said on Thursday.
A total of 126,868 homes across the country were at some point in the foreclosure process in May, up 1 percent from April and up 16 percent from the same time last year, RealtyTrac said.
Foreclosure activity includes foreclosure notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions.
Lenders reclaimed a total of 44,892 homes in May, down 1 percent from April but up 58 percent from a year ago. May was the third straight month of annual increases in bank repossessions, which remained far below the peak in September 2013 when lenders reclaimed 102,134 properties.
Foreclosure starts were down 1 percent in May, but rose 4 percent from the same period last year, RealtyTrac said. Lenders started the foreclosure process on 51,414 properties last month.
“May foreclosure numbers are a classic good news-bad news scenario, with the number of homeowners starting the foreclosure process stabilizing at pre-housing crisis levels but the number of homeowners actually losing their homes to foreclosure still well above pre-crisis levels and on the rise,” said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac vice president.
“Lenders and courts are pushing through stubborn foreclosure cases that have been languishing in foreclosure limbo for years as options to prevent foreclosure are exhausted or left untapped.”
A total of 49,413 properties were scheduled for auction in May, up 6 percent from the prior month, up 5 percent from May 2014.
Florida continued to post the highest foreclosure rates last month, followed by New Jersey, Maryland, Nevada and Ohio, RealtyTrac said.
Reporting by Elvina Nawaguna; Editing by David Gregorio