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Examining the Year-End Foreclosure Data

Foreclosure filings were reported on 2.33 million properties in 2008, an 81 percent increase in total properties from 2007 and 225 percent higher than 2006, according to a year-end study from RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosure properties. The research shows that 3.16 million foreclosure filings — including default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions — were reported on those 2.33 million properties in 2008. That results in a foreclosure rate of 1.84 percent, with one in 54 U.S. housing units receiving at least one foreclosure filing last year, RealtyTrac reports.

A total of 861,664 homeowners lost their homes to foreclosures last year, more than double the 2007 level, RealtyTrac finds. Nevada, Florida and Arizona posted the highest foreclosure rates in the nation for the year, while Vermont, West Virginia and South Dakota documented the lowest rates.

Despite the bleak year-end data, RealtyTrac reports that foreclosure activity slowed in the fourth quarter of 2008 by 4 percent compared to the third quarter, but was still nearly 40 percent higher than during the same period in 2007.

A competing study released earlier this week finds that 1 million U.S. homes were lost to foreclosure in 2008, up almost 64 percent from 2007. This study, conducted by foreclosure listing service Foreclosures.com, contends that foreclosure filings totaled 2.09 million last year, up nearly 62 percent from 2007. Like RealtyTrac, Foreclosures.com finds that overall foreclosure activity decreased in the fourth quarter, which may indicate that the worst of the crisis is over.

An optimistic Alexis McGee, president of Foreclosures.com, says the number of foreclosures was not unexpected, and she anticipates “substantial improvement” next year. “I think 2009 will surprise many people who have bought into the gloom and doom agenda.”

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