/ Modified may 16, 2012 4:37 p.m.

AZ Foreclosure Rate Improves Slightly

State ranked fourth worst with 44% decline from year ago

A 44 percent year-over-year decrease in foreclosure activity improved Arizona’s rank to fourth worst among the states in April, a foreclosure tracking and marketing company reported Thursday.

RealtyTrac's monthly report showed one in every 377 housing units in the state with a foreclosure filing in April. The March rate was one in every 300 housing units. With that, Arizona ranked worst in the country for the month, displacing Nevada, which until March had been worst every month for more than five straight years.

Nevada moved back into the worst spot in the country in April, with one in every 300 housing units with a foreclosure filing, RealtyTrac reported. California was second at 351 and Florida third at 364.

RealtyTrac reported that it counted 7,550 foreclosure filings in Arizona during April, down from 9,497 in March. A foreclosure filing is defined as a default notice, a scheduled property auction or a bank repossession, so in many instances, filings could involve new actions against previously foreclosed properties.

Nationally, April foreclosure activity decreased 5 percent from the previous month and was down 14 percent from April 2011, RealtyTrac reported. One in every 698 U.S. housing units had a foreclosure filing during the month.

The company reported that foreclosure activity rose in many states, but the national number was down year to year as a result of sharp declines in the big three -- California, Nevada and Arizona -- and an increase in short sales, which stop the foreclosure process.

“Rising foreclosure activity in many state and local markets in April was masked at the national level by sizable decreases in hard-hit foreclosure states like California, Arizona and Nevada,” RealtyTrac CEO Brandon Moore said in a press release.

“In addition, more distressed loans are being diverted into short sales rather than becoming completed foreclosures,” Moore said. “Our preliminary first quarter sales data shows that pre-foreclosure sales — typically short sales — are on pace to outnumber sales of bank-owned properties during the quarter in California, Arizona and 10 other states.”

In its tracking of the 20 biggest metro areas, RealtyTrac reported Phoenix had the fourth worst rate in April, at 313 housing units with a foreclosure filing. That was down 22.6 percent from March and down 44.4 percent from April 2011.

View the RealtyTrac national and state-by-state reports at www.realtytrac.com.

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