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Foreclosures climb in 75% of metro areas

By Les Christie, staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Foreclosure filings climbed in 75% of the nation's metro areas during the first half of 2010, according to a report issued Thursday.

RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed homes, said that California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada continue to lead the nation in the rate of foreclosures. Las Vegas was the worst-hit city.

But now unemployment has replaced toxic mortgages as the leading cause of foreclosures throughout the country, according to spokesman Rick Sharga.

"Las Vegas has seamlessly shifted from having a high level of foreclosures due to bad loans," said Sharga, "to defaults caused by a high level of unemployment." Some 14.5% of its work force was idle in June, up 2.1 points from last June.

Las Vegas had one filing for every 15 households in the metro area. The second highest rate was in Cape Coral/Fort Myers, Fla., with one for every 20 households. Two California cities, Modesto and Merced, tied for third with one filing for every 22 households.

The good news is that most of the worst-hit cities have actually seen their foreclosures rates decline, as the subprime crisis fades.

But while those cities have seen slight improvement, other areas are getting hit harder by the economy.

"Look at a place like Salt Lake City," said Sharga. "The foreclosure rise there appears to be entirely related to the economy," not because people can't afford their subprime loans.

Salt Lake's unemployment is up this year, rising 0.2% to 7.1% in June, even as the national unemployment rate dropped 0.2% to 9.5%.

Lenders filed foreclosure notices for one in every 48 Salt Lake City households during the first six months of 2010, a 55% increase over the same period in 2009.

Besides Salt Lake City, other metro areas where foreclosures have soared primarily due to the economy include Chicago, which saw filings climb 23% year-over-year to one in every 48 households. Charleston, S.C.'s, rate climbed 17% to one in every 68 homes, while Albuquerque saw a 157% jump in filings to one in 80 households.

Each of these cities has rising unemployment. Chicago's unemployment stood at 10.6% in June, more than a point above the national rate, while Albuquerque's unemployment jumped to 8.9% from 7.9% in the last 12 months and Charleston's rate stands at 9.5%.

Still, the report found that there are some remarkably untroubled markets, many of them in the Northeast, Midwest and Texas, where home prices never really bubbled during the boom and have not fallen very far during the bust.

Utica, N.Y., had the lowest filing rate of any of the 206 cities in the report, just one in 4,859 households. Burlington, Vt., recorded one foreclosure for every 3,305 homes, while Charleston, W.Va., had a rate of one in 2,799 households. To top of page

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