(MoneyWatch) Foreclosures are on the rise in parts of the U.S., according to new data from RealtyTrac. Foreclosure activity rose for the first quarter in 114 out of the 212 metropolitan areas around the nation surveyed by the real-estate industry research firm.
Foreclosures increased from the previous quarter in 26 of the nation's 50 largest metro areas. Pittsburgh saw the highest jump, with a 49 percent increase in homes seized, followed by Indianapolis, Philadelphia, New York, Raleigh, N.C., and Virginia Beach, Va.
The surge in foreclosures appears to be weighing on the entire residential housing sector. Home prices declined year-over-year in the first two
months of 2012, according to the latest
Foreclosure activity did decline over the quarter in some cities. Portland saw a 28 percent drop in foreclosures, the largest decline among the cities RealtyTrac monitors. Foreclosures fell 61 percent in Las Vegas, viewed by many as ground zero for the housing bust, as well as in Providence, R.I., Salt Lake City, Boston, and San Jose, Calif.
Despite the continuing problems in the housing market, total foreclosures are at a lower level this year than in 2011. Of the 212 metropolitan areas examined by RealtyTrac, 64 percent saw a year-over-year decline in foreclosures in the first quarter.
Most of the nation's largest metro areas also are seeing foreclosures ebb. Of the nation's 50 biggest cities, 33 reported a drop in home seizures. Along with Las Vegas, foreclosures also declined significantly in Seattle, Salt Lake City, Austin, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y.
Of the 17 larger metro areas that posted year-over-year increases in the first quarter, Orlando, Fla., saw the largest hike, at 52 percent. Rounding out the top five were Indianapolis, Hartford, Conn., Miami, and Philadelphia.
"First quarter metro foreclosure trends were a mixed bag," Brandon Moore, CEO of RealtyTrac, said in a statement. "While the majority of metro areas continued to show foreclosure activity down from a year ago, more than half reported increasing foreclosure activity from the previous quarter -- an early sign that long-dormant foreclosures are coming out of hibernation in many local markets."
Although it may be premature to call a bottom to the housing crash, in other words, we may be closer to than we think.
It's not surprising to see banks pushing more foreclosures through the pipeline. The federal government'searlier this year with five of the nation's biggest mortgage lenders lays out clearer loan-servicing guidelines, while banks are becoming more efficient in processing foreclosures. Despite recent speculation that short-sales are slowly becoming the preferred method of unloading distressed property, banks also still must complete the foreclosures they've already started.
If you're a homeowner and have questions about whether you qualify for a loan modification or refinancing under the Home Affordable Refinance Program (also known as HARP 2.0), contact the Homeowner's HOPE hotline at 1-888-995-HOPE or go to MakingHomeAffordable.gov. If you believe you were foreclosed upon incorrectly or received a foreclosure notice that you shouldn't have, you can ask for a free Independent Foreclosure Review. Go to IndependentForeclosureReview.com for details or call 888-952-9105.