Foreclosures spike 112% - no end in sight

More than 155,000 families have lost their homes to foreclosure this year; one out of every 194 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing.

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Foreclosure filings in the first three months of 2008 rose more than 112% over last year, according to a study released Tuesday.

Real estate information firm RealtyTrac reported that nearly 650,000 foreclosure filings - which include notices of default, auction sales and bank repossessions - were issued in the first quarter. That represents 1 of every 194 households and marks a 23% increase from the last quarter of 2007.

So far this year 156,463 families have lost their homes to repossessions.

"Foreclosure activity hasn't slowed down yet," said Rick Sharga, spokesman for RealtyTrac. "But I was a little surprised that foreclosure filings more than doubled since last year."

Foreclosures increased in 46 states and in 90 of the nation's 100 largest metro areas. Some regions that had been only marginally hurt by the mortgage meltdown recorded large increases in filings. In Connecticut, for instance, filings tripled compared with the first three months of 2007. Massachusetts recorded a 260% increase.

Nevada: Hardest hit

The worst hit states are still clustered in the Southwest; Nevada, California and Arizona lead the nation in foreclosure filings. Prices ran up rapidly in these areas during the bubble years as speculators snapped up single-family homes and condos as investments.

In the first quarter, 1 of every 54 homes in Nevada received some type of foreclosure filing - more than any other state. Its largest city, Las Vegas, had 1 out of every 44 homes go into foreclosure.

Stockton, Calif., had the highest foreclosure rate out of any U.S. metro area, with 1 out of every 30 homes receiving a notice - nearly seven times higher than the national average. The Riverside/San Bernardino region had the second highest rate in the quarter, with one of every 38 homes in default.

Only two metro areas in the ranks of the 20 hardest hit were outside the Sunbelt - Detroit, which ranked sixth in the nation with 1 in every 68 households in default, and Cleveland which saw 1 in every 105 homes go into foreclosure.

The news comes despite increased foreclosure prevention efforts by lenders and community organizations. Hope Now, the coalition of mortgage lenders, servicers investors and community groups, announced Monday that it helped over a half a million home owners avoid foreclosure during the first three months of the year.

And some local governments have stepped up their programs to help borrowers, according to RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio.

"For example, in late March Philadelphia issued a temporary moratorium on all foreclosure auctions for April," he said. "The city has since adopted a program that will delay foreclosure proceedings on owner-occupied properties until the owners have met face-to-face with lenders to attempt to create a loan workout plan that would prevent foreclosure."

More trouble ahead

Additionally, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are at work on several plans that would deliver foreclosure relief to distressed borrowers.

All of these foreclosure prevention efforts may not be able to stand up to the tsunami of foreclosures on the way. Sharga says that a record number of hybrid adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) - worth $362 billion - will reset in 2008.

These so-called "exploding ARMs" usually have low introductory interest rates that reset much higher after two or three years, and then re-adjust as often as every six months after that. Unless these loans can be reworked, many will fail.

"We expect to see another foreclosure peak in the late third or fourth quarter of the year," said Sharga, "because of the record number of resets coming." To top of page

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