Foreclosures Enter Calm Before New Storm

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. home foreclosures falling at the lowest annual rate this year in November may signal that a new wave of sales is imminent in 2012, according to RealtyTrac.

Foreclosure filings -- default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions -- fell 2.7% from October to 224,394 last month, according to RealtyTrac, a firm that monitors the foreclosure market. According to the data, one in every 579 U.S. homes entered some stage of foreclosure, a 14.5% decrease from November 2010, down from a 30.6% decline year-on-year in October and 38.2 in September.

"Despite a seasonal slowdown similar to what we've seen in each of the past four years, November's numbers suggest a new set of incoming foreclosure waves," James Saccacio, co-founder of RealtyTrac, said in a statement. Market uncertainty surrounding an on-going foreclosure settlement between U.S. attorneys general and the major mortgage lenders contributed to November's drop as the "lenders are more cautious to how the process," he said in an interview.

Foreclosure auctions were up significantly, continuing October's trends. California (63%), Washington (56%), Ohio (53%), New Jersey (up 44%) and New York (38%) all saw big increases in scheduled auctions. In California, scheduled sales rose 14% from November 2010, the first year-on-year increase since March 2010.

Much of the nation's foreclosure problems are regional with California, Florida and Michigan accounting for 45.6% of foreclosure filings in the U.S. California, which accounts for 28.4% of filings nationwide, also claims nine of the top 10 spots for metropolitan areas with the highest foreclosure rates.

Las Vegas, the only metropolitan area outside of California in the top 10, helped lead Nevada to claim the nation's highest foreclosure rate for the 59th month in a row. One in every 175 Nevada housing units received foreclosure filings in November.

California posted the second highest rate with one in every 211 housing units receiving a filing, followed by Arizona for the fifth straight month, where one in every 256 housing units were in distress.

Utah, Georgia, Michigan, Florida, Illinois, Ohio and South Carolina also posted high foreclosure rates.

"We're still not out of the woods yet," Saccacio said. "We have to get jobs going and property values have to move up before we get rid of this overhand of negative equity."