Las Vegas tops foreclosure list

26 of the cities hardest hit are concentrated in Nevada, California, Florida and Arizona, according to a report from RealtyTrac.

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By Catherine Clifford, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The 26 cities with the highest foreclosure rate in the nation are all located in four hard-hit states, with Las Vegas topping the list, according to a report released Wednesday.

Metro areas in California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona topped the foreclosure filing list for the first quarter of 2009 in a report from RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties. A foreclosure filing includes default papers, auction sale notices and repossessions.

Las Vegas had the highest rate of foreclosures of any city, with one in every 22 homes subject to a foreclosure filing in the first three months of the year. The rate of foreclosure filings was 4.5%, seven times the national average.

Merced, Calif., had the second highest rate, with Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., Stockton, Calif., and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., rounding out the top five.

"The metro areas with the highest levels of foreclosure activity in the first quarter of 2009 paint a picture of concentrated problems in a relatively small number of hard-hit areas," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, in a written statement.

Foreclosure rates have been very high in the 4 key states throughout the bursting of the housing bubble, and so it was to be expected that cities from those states would pepper the top of the list.

However, it was a surprise to see the list so top heavy, according to Rick Sharga, senior vice president at RealtyTrac.

"The concentration of troubled metro areas within the hardest-hit states, candidly, was even more severe than we expected it to be," Sharga said. "The degree to which those four states dominated the rankings surprised even us."

New problem cities: Meanwhile, some metropolitan areas had a surge in foreclosures. Boise City-Nampa, Idaho, in 27th place, Provo-Orem, Utah, in 37th, and Charleston-North Charleston, S.C., in 51st were examples Sharga gave of areas that had particular strong gains in filings.

Sharga said the rise of foreclosures in additional regions indicates new factors influencing the housing market as the recession drags on.

"What we believe we are seeing is some of the areas with unemployment problems," said Sharga. "These are people living paycheck to paycheck and, when the paycheck is gone, suddenly they can't afford to make their mortgage payments."

The data for RealtyTrak's metro area foreclosure report is collected from 2,200 counties across the nation, and those counties represent more than 90% of the U.S. population. Some 203 areas are covered by the report.

Across the nation, foreclosure activity in the first quarter hit a record high, according to another RealtyTrac report issued last week. Total foreclosure filings reached 803,489 in the first three months of the year, the highest monthly and quarterly totals since RealtyTrac began reporting in January 2005.

The national report also found that the worst of the foreclosures were centralized in a handful of worst-hit states. California, Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Illinois accounted for nearly 60% of the total foreclosure activity in the first quarter, with 479,516 properties received foreclosure filings in those states. To top of page

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