In February, 206,900 U.S. residential properties were involved in some stage of foreclosure -- either in default or in preparation for a bank seizure or an involuntary auction, RealtyTrac reported in a monthly assessment of the national foreclosure scene.
That means one in every 637 residential properties was in trouble in the month, as the month-to-month rate of improvement was 2 percent, but the annual rate of improvement was the lowest since October 2010 with an annual decline of 8 percent.
Ominously, the number of states with annual increases in foreclosure activity has risen or stayed flat each month since August.
In August, seven states had annual rates of foreclosures rising. By October, that had grown to 11. It was 12 in November and December and 16 in January.
In February, the most recent month included in the report, 21 states were showing increased foreclosure activity -- not far from half of the states.
"February's numbers point to a gradually rising foreclosure tide as some of the barriers that have been holding back foreclosures are removed," said Brandon Moore, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac in a statement.
The national rate was pushed lower by the comparative size of the states with improved rates. Still, the number of states with annual increases is the most since November 2010, Moore said.
Further, the $25 billion settlement with five national banks charged with shortchanging due process in their foreclosure processes, could open the floodgates by allowing the five to move forward with foreclosures put on hold until a settlement was reached.
The settlement includes $20 billion meant to assist troubled homeowners. But those are homeowners near to a foreclosure, not those with the die already cast.
RealtyTrac said half of the 20 metropolitan areas tracked by the report had annual increases in foreclosure activity.
Topping the list, one in 166 housing units in Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., were involved in foreclosures. In Atlanta, the ratio was one in every 244 housing units. The ratio was one in every 259 in Phoenix, one in every 264 in Miami and one in every 302 in Chicago.