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Originally published January 13, 2011 at 11:10 AM | Page modified January 14, 2011 at 6:48 AM

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Foreclosure crisis still bleak for state, nation

In Washington, where the housing crisis started later than the rest of the country and also appears to be peaking later, total foreclosure filings were up 24 percent from 2009.

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — The bleakest year in the foreclosure crisis has only just begun.

Lenders are poised to take back more homes this year than any other since the U.S. housing meltdown began in 2006.

This year "is going to be the peak," said Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac. The firm predicts 1.2 million homes will be repossessed this year.

The blistering pace of foreclosures this year will top 2010, when a record 1 million homes were lost, RealtyTrac said Thursday.

In Washington, more than 20,000 homes were repossessed last year — nearly 30 percent more than in 2009, according to the research firm.

One in every 45 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing last year, a record 2.9 million of them. That's up 1.67 percent from 2009. About 5 million borrowers are at least two months behind on their mortgages, and industry experts say more people will miss payments because of job losses and also loans that exceed the value of the homes they are living in.

In Washington, where the housing crisis started later than the rest of the country and also appears to be peaking later, total foreclosure filings were up 24 percent from 2009.

They rose 29 percent in King County, 32 percent in Snohomish County and 8 percent in Pierce County.

Still, just one in 64 state households received some kind of foreclosure notice in 2010, a smaller percentage than the nation as a whole.

The number of homes that received at least one foreclosure-related filing in December was the lowest monthly total in 30 months. Total notices fell 1.8 percent from November and 26.3 percent from December 2009, RealtyTrac said.

In King County, notices were up 1.9 percent from November and 8.4 percent from December 2009.

The number of notices dropped nationally, in part, because banks temporarily halted actions against borrowers severely behind on their payments after allegations of improper evictions surfaced in September.

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However, most banks have since resumed foreclosures, and the first quarter will likely bear that out, Sharga said.

The pain likely will be the most acute in states that have already suffered the worst. For the most part, it will be states that saw the biggest housing booms: Nevada, Arizona, Florida and California. They will be joined by states hit hardest by the economic downturn, including Michigan and Illinois.

More than half of the country's foreclosure activity came out of five states in 2010: California, Florida, Arizona, Illinois and Michigan. Together, these states recorded almost 1.5 million households receiving a filing, despite year-over-year decreases in California, Florida and Arizona.

Nevada posted the highest foreclosure rate in 2010 for the fourth straight year, despite a 5 percent decline in activity from the year before.

Washington ranked 18th, with Snohomish County seeing the top foreclosure rate. Rounding out the top five were Pierce, Clark, Grays Harbor and Cowlitz counties.

RealtyTrac tracks notices for defaults, scheduled home auctions and home repossessions — warnings that can lead to a home eventually being lost to foreclosure.

Seattle Times business reporter Eric Pryne contributed.

Foreclosures in Washington
Number of homes repossessed, by year

County

2008

2009

2010

% change, 2009-10
King 2,052 4,190 6,063 +44.7
Snohomish 911 1,968 3,240 +64.6
Pierce 2,258 3,782 3,773 -0.2
Kitsap 430 671 652 -2.8
Washington total 8,802 16,017 20,749 +29.5
Source: RealtyTrac

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