By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 5:45 AM
Foreclosure filings leveled off last month after climbing steadily for more than a year, according to a report released today by RealtyTrac, but the continued high rate of such filings indicates that many borrowers remain at risk of losing their home.
The private firm, which collects housing data nationwide, counted 342,038 April foreclosure filings, which can range from default notices to bank repossessions.
It was the highest monthly figure since the group began collecting data in January 2005. The number of homes receiving a foreclosure filing last month was up less than 1 percent from March, 2009, but reflected an increase of 32 percent compared with April 2008, according to the report.
RealtyTrac says it collects data on more than 90 percent of U.S. households.
Bank repossessions slowed last month, reflecting the continued impact of foreclosure moratoriums put in place late last year by large lenders and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage financing companies. But lenders also started the foreclosure process on an increasing number of households during that period, according to the report.
"It's likely that we'll see a corresponding spike in . . . [foreclosure sales] as these loans move through the foreclosure process over the next few months," James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac's chief executive, said in a statement.
Foreclosure filings were up in the Washington region in April compared with the previous month, according to the report. Virginia was among the 10 states with the highest number foreclosure filings, but California, Florida and Nevada continued to lead the pack.
The housing market has been saturated by foreclosed properties that have dragged down home prices throughout the country. The cheap properties have spurred sales in some areas, but also reinforced expectations that the housing market will remain weak into next year.
Despite industry and government efforts, the country's rising unemployment rate is pushing an increasing number of borrowers into foreclosure, analysts have said. Some homeowners are saddled with risky loans that they can't afford, while others are scrambling to find a job so they can make payments. The Obama administration has launched a $75 billion foreclosure prevention program, but it is expected to take months to have an impact.