WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Foreclosure activity across the United States jumped in July for the first time in four months as lenders scheduled more properties for auction, an industry report said on Thursday.
RealtyTrac, which compiles housing market data, said 109,434 properties across the country were in some stage of the foreclosure process, marking a 2 percent increase from June.
Despite the rise, foreclosure activity, which includes foreclosure notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, was 16 percent below the year-ago level. It was the 46th consecutive month in which activity declined on an annual basis.
“It is not uncommon to see month-to-month fluctuations that are not indicative of the long-term trend; that is most likely the case with July numbers,” RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist told Reuters. “If we see a string of four to six months of monthly increases, that will certainly be cause for concern, but we’re not there yet.”
Decreasing foreclosure activity has helped undercut the supply of properties on the market, pushing prices up and slowing sales. Rising mortgage rates have also helped slow the housing recovery to a crawl.
Lenders reclaimed 25,937 properties in July, down 4 percent from June and 30 percent below the year-ago level.
A total of 51,595 properties were set for foreclosure auctions last month, a 10 percent rise from June but still 3 percent below last year’s levels.
Lenders started the foreclosure process on 49,624 properties in July, up 5 percent from the prior month, but down 18 percent from the same time last year.
For the tenth straight month, Florida had the nation’s highest foreclosure rate, followed by Maryland, Nevada and Illinois.
“After nearly four years of falling foreclosures, we are starting to see evidence that foreclosure numbers are normalizing at the national level,” said Blomquist.
“The biggest causes for concern when it comes to foreclosure at this point are at the state and local level, in places like New York, New Jersey and Maryland, where foreclosure activity continued a nearly two-year trend higher in July, and in places like Southern California, where we saw annual increases in foreclosure activity following nearly three years of decreases.”
Reporting by Elvina Nawaguna; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama