Foreclosures Surged Nearly 60% in March

Foreclosures in March surged nearly 60 percent above the year-ago total, with states where the real estate boom rang loudest just a few years ago now the hardest hit, according to a survey.

The numbers, compiled by online foreclosure marketplace RealtyTrac, also show increasing numbers of homeowners content simply to walk away from their mortgages as the amount they owe on their homes exceeds their value.

RealtyTrac said there were 234,685 foreclosure findings in March, up 5 percent from February and 57 percent from March 2007. One in every 538 US households received a foreclosure filing -- a default notice, auction sale notice or bank repossession -- during the month.

The report, found, though, that the rate of increase for auction notices far trailed those for default notices and bank repossessions, showing the escalation of a recent trend for homeowners.

"On a year-over-year basis, default notices were up nearly 57 percent and bank repossessions were up nearly 129 percent, but auction notices were up only 32 percent, indicating that more defaulting homeowners are simply walking away and deeding their properties back to the foreclosing lender," James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac CEO, said in a statement.

More homeowners instead are opting for a deed in lieu of foreclosure, which allows the bank to repossess the property without a public foreclosure option.

The areas affected most by foreclosures as a percentage of homeowners are Nevada, California, Florida, Arizona and Colorado.

In Nevada, one in every 139 households received a foreclosure filing in March, a rate 3.9 times the national average. The state led the rankings for the 15th consecutive month as foreclosure filings were reported on 7,659 properties, up 24 percent from the previous month.

When considering total foreclosures, California ranks first, followed by Florida, Ohio, Georgia and Texas. Foreclosure filings were reported on 64,711 California homes.

Of states showing a decrease in foreclosures, Texas fell 63 percent in March, while New Mexico dropped 32 percent, New Jersey dropped nearly 20 percent, and Hawaii and Delaware were both down about 16 percent.