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Foreclosures rise in 26 states

Foreclosures are increasing, ironically, because banks are addressing foreclosures that had been in limbo.  

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Taken individually, some states registered far higher increases in foreclosure activity last month.

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Default notices, the first step in the foreclosure process, edged up 1 percent nationally last month from January, but fell 7 percent on an annual basis. But several states posted big annual increases, including Hawaii (321 percent), Maryland (157 percent) and Florida (33 percent) — all three states where courts play a role inforeclosures.

Initial default notices fell sharply in several states, including Nevada (89 percent) and Michigan (72 percent). New York bucked the trend of other judicial states, posting an annual drop of 44 percent in default notices last month.

Banks repossessed 63,834 U.S. homes last month, down 4 percent from January and a decline of 1 percent from February last year, RealtyTrac said.

Once more, the national figures don't tell the whole story, however.

Repossessions skyrocketed in February versus a year earlier in Massachusetts (114 percent), North Carolina (95 percent), Florida (90 percent) and Georgia (76 percent), among other states.

"At the end of the day in 2012, we are going to see an increase in foreclosures nationally from 2011," Blomquist said.

RealtyTrac projects foreclosures will rise 25 percent this year to more than 1 million homes. Last year, lenders took back 804,000 homes.

More than 6 million homeowners were either behind on their mortgage payments or in foreclosure at the end of last year, by some estimates. And about a quarter of all U.S. homeowners, some 11 million, are underwater on their homes, owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, according to CoreLogic, a real estate data firm.

At the state level, Nevada continued to post the nation's highest foreclosure rate last month, with one in every 278 households in the state receiving a foreclosure-related filing. That's more than twice the national average.

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