NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. home foreclosures for January increased 57 percent from a year earlier, but the pace at least temporarily subsided in response to private and government efforts to help homeowners, RealtyTrac said.
Mortgage companies and counselors, endorsed by the Treasury, are modifying many high-risk mortgages, aiming to improve affordability and keep borrowers in their houses.
Foreclosure filings in January rose 8 percent from the prior month after jumping 19 percent a year earlier, the real estate marketing company said on Tuesday.
“January’s foreclosure numbers demonstrate that foreclosure activity is continuing on its upward trend, substantially increasing from a year ago in many states,” James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, said in a statement.
For the month of January, foreclosure activity fell in several states that have been worst plagued, though it still remained substantial and sharply higher than a year ago.
“It could be that some of the efforts on the part of lenders and the government — both at the state and federal level — are beginning to take effect,” Saccacio said.
“The big question is whether those efforts are truly helping homeowners avoid foreclosure in the long term or if they are just temporarily forestalling the inevitable for many beleaguered borrowers.”
Nevada, California and Florida posted the highest foreclosure rates in January.
Nevada maintained its top spot with foreclosure filings on 6,087 properties. While that was 45 percent less than in December, it was 95 percent higher than in January 2007, RealtyTrac said
Falling home prices have compounded the problems spawned by lax mortgage lending practices, pushing many homeowners to default.
RealtyTrac reported default notices, auction sales notices or bank repossessions on about 233,000 houses in January.
Many borrowers owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth, or face much higher costs as adjustable-rate loans reset. Owners are often unable to access credit to refinance.
Some are said to be walking away from their mortgages.
Bank repossessions have jumped 90 percent over the past year, RealtyTrac said.
Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, Georgia, Connecticut, Ohio and Michigan rounded out the 10 states with the fastest rates of foreclosure in January.
The number of filings was the greatest in California, Florida and Texas. Filings numbered 57,158 in California last month, the most of any state, rising 7 percent from December and 120 percent from a year earlier.
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida had the highest January foreclosure rate of 229 metro areas in the report, edging out the Stockton, California area.
For all of 2007, more than 1 percent of all U.S. households faced foreclosure, almost double the prior year’s rate, RealtyTrac reported last month.
Reporting by Lynn Adler, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama