A good-news, bad-news scenario emerged Wednesday on the foreclosure front in Nevada.
RealtyTrac of Irvine, Calif., which collects and analyzes foreclosure data, reported that in March, Nevada moved to No. 2 on the national foreclosure list after leading the nation for 62 consecutive months.
With one foreclosure filing for every 300 households, Arizona moved into the No. 1 spot in March, RealtyTrac said.
Nevada's rate was one filing for every 301 households. California came in at No. 3 with one filing for every 303 homes.
All these numbers were well above the national rate of one filing for every 662 homes.
The bad news for Nevada, however, is that it led the nation in the growth of foreclosure starts in March, with filings jumping 153 percent from February.
That's an indication that in coming months, completed foreclosures will also increase in Nevada.
It's impossible to say by how much, as some homeowners may gain refinancing and banks may allow others to get out of their mortgages with short sales in which homes are sold for less than the debt against them.
In Nevada, 1,163 properties received default notices in March, up from 460 in February, RealtyTrac said.
Largely because of a new state law requiring lenders to file extra documentation with foreclosures, Nevada foreclosure filings dropped dramatically in late 2011 and now appear to be heading back up as banks have adjusted to the situation. There were 5,565 filings in March 2011, RealtyTrac said.
Among the nation's metropolitan areas, Las Vegas ranked No. 8 on the first quarter foreclosure list, RealtyTrac said. Las Vegas had led the nation for 22 consecutive months until October.
Leading the nation in the first quarter were seven California markets: Stockton; Modesto; Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario; Vallejo-Fairfield; Merced; Sacramento and Bakersfield.
For Las Vegas, the high unemployment rate (12.2 percent) continues to contribute to elevated levels of foreclosures.
Unemployment and foreclosures combined continue to depress local housing prices.
The Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors this week said the median price of single-family homes sold in March was $123,000, up 1.7 percent from $121,000 in February, but down 2.3 percent from $125,950 one year ago.
Nationwide, RealtyTrac said foreclosure filings were reported on 198,853 properties in March. That's down 4 percent from February, down 17 percent from March 2011 and the lowest monthly total since July 2007.
Declines in recent months have been attributed to efforts by banks to beef up compliance with foreclosure rules; as well as regulatory investigations, many of which are wrapping up.
"The low foreclosure numbers in the first quarter are not an indication that the massive reservoir of distressed properties built up over the past few years has somehow miraculously evaporated," Brandon Moore, CEO of RealtyTrac, said in a statement. "The dam may not burst in the next 30 to 45 days, but it will eventually burst, and everyone downstream should be prepared for that to happen -- both in terms of new foreclosure activity and new short sale activity."
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