Florida foreclosures lead nation

State's filings were way up in February over last year. California and Arizona also showing strain.

By Les Christie, CNNMoney.com staff writer.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The once red-hot Florida housing market leads the nation in delinquencies, according to the latest report on foreclosure filings from RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosure properties.

There were more than 19,144 properties in some stage of foreclosure in February in the Sunshine State, up 63.5 percent from January and nearly double the number a year earlier.

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Nationally, foreclosure filings fell in February, down 4 percent from January. They were, however, up 12 percent from February 2006, and were running at a rate that would project into a 33 percent increase for the year, according to James Saccacio, RealtyTrac's CEO.

Many housing markets that until a year or so ago were recording big gains in home prices are now racking up high delinquency levels. With billions of dollars worth of subprime ARM loans scheduled to reset this year, the situation could get worse.

The RealyTrac report covers several stages of foreclosures including: notices of default; notices of trustee sale; notices of foreclosure sale; and real estate owned, that is, properties already foreclosed on and repurchased by lenders.

In addition to Florida, other once-hot markets showing weakness include California, where filings shot up nearly 79 percent compared with a year ago, and Nevada, which for the second straight month had the nation's highest foreclosure rate relative to the number of households.

Nevada's 3,124 foreclosure filings during February, a rise of 77 percent from a year earlier, gave it a rate of one filing for every 278 households - more than three times the national average.

In Las Vegas, one of the fastest growing large cities in the United States, an overbuilding excess of the past few years has left the area with a large inventory of vacant new houses, which has depressed sales of existing homes.

Out-of-state speculators had invested heavily in the Vegas market during the boom years through 2005 and many may have now abandoned their holdings, allowing a large number of them to slip into foreclosure.

Arizona markets, such as Phoenix, may be experiencing a similar trend. Filings there totaled one for every 703 households and have risen 44.1 percent since last February.

Colorado, at one filing for every 345 households, had the second highest rate in the nation. Other states with high foreclosure rates include Georgia (one for every 424 households), Michigan (one per 455), Ohio (one per 640), Tennessee (one per 639) and Texas (one per 650).

For the Midwestern states, however, the news was actually an improvement on the recent numbers; filings were down from January and year ago levels for both Michigan (down 19.6 percent compared with January and 10.2 percent from last February) and Ohio (12.1 percent and 24.3 percent).

Very low default markets were led by Vermont, which had just one foreclosure blemish - a notice of default - on an otherwise spotless record. Other low foreclosure states included Maine (one per 72,432 households), West Virginia (one per 27,246) and North Dakota (one per 16,093). Top of page