Foreclosures Down 10% In January

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Foreclosure tracking website RealtyTrac released its January statistics today. It reports foreclosures declined by 10% in January compared to December. That sounds like great news, if it indicates the start of a new trend. It probably doesn't.

RealtyTrac saw 315,716 foreclosure filings on U.S. properties in January. As mentioned, this is 10% fewer than in December, but still 15% more than in January 2009. Not great year-over-year, but the month-over-month decline is reason for optimism, right? Not so fast says RealtyTrac's CEO:

"January foreclosure numbers are exhibiting a pattern very similar to a year ago: a double-digit percentage jump in December foreclosure activity followed by a 10 percent drop in January," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac "If history repeats itself we will see a surge in the numbers over the next few months as lenders foreclose on delinquent loans where neither the existing loan modification programs or the new short sale and deed-in-lieu of foreclosure alternatives works."

So this probably isn't the beginning of a trend, but more a seasonal variance. I suppose there's a hope that history won't repeat itself, but since I haven't seen any other indicators that the housing market has made a sudden turn for the better, I suspect Saccacio is right.

Here are a few other noteworthy stats from the report:

- Nevada remains the foreclosure capital with the highest ratio of foreclosures per housing unit for the 37th straight month.
- Arizona was 2nd highest, with its foreclosures increasing by 4% month-over-month.
- Foreclosures declined by double digits percentages in California and Florida month-over-month, but the states still remain in the top-three for total foreclosures in January.
- California, Florida and Arizona accounted 44% of all foreclosures nationwide.
- Those three plus Illinois, Michigan and Texas account for 60% of all foreclosures.
- Phoenix was the only top-10 metro area to experience an increase in foreclosures month-over-month.
- Las Vegas was still the worst metro area for foreclosures, with one in every 82 housing units filing.

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.
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