Which States Had The Most Foreclosures In 2009?

Foreclosure data tracker RealtyTrac released its final 2009 foreclosure statistics today. The results, as you can probably imagine, are ugly. The U.S. had 2,824,674 foreclosed properties. That's a 21% increase from 2008 and a 120% increase from 2007. Yet, the results vary widely on a state-by-state basis. You may be able to guess a few of the worst-hit states, but the depth of their pain is rather astonishing.There are a few different ways you could try to determine which states were the worst -- depending on what measure you use. If you want to compare total foreclosures, then California ranked #1, with 632,573 foreclosed properties. Florida followed with 516,711. Arizona was a distant third with 163,210 foreclosures.

But since California and Florida are pretty highly-populated states, it isn't necessarily fair to call them the worst, in my opinion. I'm more interested in how many foreclosures each state had per housing unit. That levels the playing field. Luckily, RealtyTrac provides that data as well. Now the worst state is Nevada, with a whopping one foreclosure for every 10 properties. Arizona follows with one foreclosure for every 16 properties. Florida is right on its heels with one foreclosure for every 17 properties.

And yet, not all states had it so bad. Some states actually had fewer foreclosures in 2009 than in 2008 and 2007. Nebraska actually had 42% fewer foreclosures in 2009 than in 2008, and 49% fewer in 2009 than in 2007. The other solid performance came from North Carolina. The state had 16% fewer foreclosures in 2009 than 2008, and 2% fewer in 2009 than in 2007. Six other states had fewer foreclosures in 2009 than in 2008, but all the rest had more foreclosures in 2009 than in 2007.

Flirting with 3 million foreclosures nationally in one year is pretty awful. That's one in every 45 properties in the U.S. But at least 2009 experienced some housing demand. The government home buying incentives and low mortgage interest rates towards the end of the year did manage to conjure up (or at least pull forward) some demand for buyers. So those foreclosures didn't all become excess inventory.

Yet, I worry that some home buyer fatigue may set in for 2010. In a recession this deep, there are only so many Americans left who have the interest and financial audacity to purchase a home, after the large number who purchased last year. So I have my doubts that this year's housing demand can stack up to 2009. But I certainly hope that this is one of those times I'm wrong.