Foreclosures either up 24% or down 13% in first quarter of 2009

The media is always up for an exciting headline, so the Associated Press reported the latest foreclosure news from RealtyTrac this way: US foreclosures up 24 percent in 1st quarter.

That's true. But here's the thing: Foreclosures were also down 13% from the fourth quarter of 2008, thanks to temporary moratoriums on foreclosures. So foreclosures were either up double-digits or down double-digits, depending on how you look at it.

But that aside, the news looks bad: The rate of foreclosure filings gained tremendous momentum late in the quarter. March foreclosure filings were up 17% compared to February -- and up 46% from a year earlier.

"In the month of March we saw a record level of foreclosure activity - the number of households that received a foreclosure filing was more than 12 percent higher than the next highest month on record. Since much of this activity was in new foreclosure actions, it suggests that many lenders and servicers were holding off on executing foreclosures due to industry moratoria and legislative delays," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac in a press release. "It's also likely that the drop in REO activity can be attributed to these processing delays, rather than to any of the foreclosure prevention programs currently in place. It's very likely that we'll see the number of REOs increase again now that most of the moratoria have been lifted."

But before you start freaking out, it's important to remember that a huge chunk of the pin action in foreclosures is concentrated in a few cities in a few states. In Nevada, one in every twenty-four homes received a foreclosure filing during the fourth quarter. If you're worried about your own home's value, take a look at foreclosure statistics in your area using a site like RealtyTracy -- You can sign up for a seven day free trial and browse around and find out all you need to know.

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