U.S. foreclosures up 23% in first quarter, higher in the South

The RealtyTrac foreclosure report for the first quarter of 2008 is out. It shows foreclosures increasing more than 23% nationwide as compared to the fourth quarter of 2007, and a disturbing 112% year-over-year increase from the first quarter of 2007.

RealtyTrac CEO James J. Saccacio says in the report that "Foreclosure activity in the first quarter increased on a year-over-year basis in 46 out of the 50 states and in 90 of the nation's 100 largest metro areas, demonstrating that most regions of the country are seeing more foreclosures."

Florida was fourth highest on the list with one foreclosure per 97 households, double the national rate. There were 87,893 foreclosures in Florida, a 178% increase over the first quarter of 2007 and a 17% increase over the fourth quarter of 2007. Georgia was sixth on the list, with one foreclosure per 136 households. Tennessee was number thirteen, with one foreclosure per 216 households.

The total number of foreclosures in Southern states including Texas was 197,425. The average percentage increase in foreclosures was 30% from Q4 2008, and 108% year-over-year from Q1 2007.

States with the lowest rate of foreclosure were West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, and South Carolina. All of those states, however, saw an increase from Q4 2007 except Mississippi, which had a reduction of -7.66%.

In related news, nationwide home vacancies hit a new record of 18.6 million unoccupied homes, or 2.9% which is the highest number on record since 1956. Analysts say foreclosures are a factor, but so are falling prices, which are making buyers wait for the market to bottom out. According to the Bloomberg report, Fannie Mae says home prices may decline up to 5.8% in 2008, the most on record.