Foreclosure Filings Climbed in March

By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 16, 2009; 4:19 PM

Foreclosure filings spiked in March despite industry and government efforts to keep people in their homes, according to data from RealtyTrac released today.

The firm counted 341,180 filings nationally, which can range from default notices to bank repossessions. That was up 17 percent from February and 46 percent from March 2008. That is the highest monthly total since RealtyTrac began collecting this data in 2005. RealtyTrac, a private firm, says its data include more than 90 percent of U.S. households.

The spike in filings probably was related to the expiration of several foreclosure moratoriums across the country, said Daren Blomquist, a RealtyTrac spokesman. Many of the latest filings represented lenders starting the foreclosure process on delinquent homeowners, he said.

For the first quarter, foreclosure filings increased 9 percent compared with the previous quarter and were up 24 percent from the first quarter of 2008.

Nevada and Arizona had the highest foreclosure rates during the quarter. Foreclosure filings in the District and Maryland fell during the quarter, but they increased in Virginia.

This comes as a few lenders begin to implement the Obama administration's foreclosure prevention program. Under the program, lenders are paid to reduce borrowers' payments to more affordable levels. Ocwen Financial Corp., a Florida mortgage servicer, for example, said earlier this week that it had begun offering the modifications to clients.

The administration has said it expects to be able to help up to 4 million homeowners under the program. But it could take months for the program to have a significant impact.

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