Las Vegas Remains Foreclosure Capital in Q1

Maybe they should call it Foreclosure City instead of Sin City. Las Vegas was again the source of the highest foreclosures density in the U.S. during the first quarter, according to a new RealtyTrac report documenting foreclosure rates in the 209 largest metropolitan statistical areas. It had an incredible one foreclosure for every 28 properties. That's even worse than Nevada's overall 1-in-33 foreclosure rate for the quarter. The city's foreclosure density was also nearly 5x the national average.

Most of the other worst cities were from states who are the usual suspects for housing market problems. In fact, you have to look all the way to the #22nd worst -- Boise City-Nampa, Idaho -- to find a city outside California, Florida, Nevada, or Arizona. Here are the 10 worst:

Worst Foreclosure Cities 2010-Q1.PNG

The good news is that all but two of the 10 worst saw fewer foreclosures than in the first quarter of 2009. The bad news is that only four of those ten have seen declines since the fourth quarter of 2009. Las Vegas is a prototypical example of this phenomenon. It has 19% fewer foreclosure than a year earlier, but 13% more than a quarter earlier.

These changes suggest a lack of stability in foreclosures. Earlier this month, we learned that March set a new high for total U.S. foreclosures. That was partially due to modification programs and banks releasing more shadow inventory into the market.The short-term increases but long-term declines in some of the worst cities make sense in this context.

Most of major cities less affected by foreclosures are those in relatively rural areas. Of the 10 best, three are in upstate New York, while the others are scattered around states like North Carolina, Alabama, Nebraska, Vermont, and West Virginia.

When it comes to major cities, it's not hard to figure out which ones are at the top -- Phoenix, Miami, Detroit, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Interestingly, the foreclosure problem in New York City metropolitan statistical area remains relatively benign, showing that its economy probably won't be much affected by defaulted homeowners going forward. Its foreclosure density is only about a third of the national average. Here's a list of some major cities:

Foreclosure Big Cities 2010-Q1 v2.PNG