The firm said 26 percent of home sales involved homes owned by banks or with mortgages in distress. The figure is a climb from 22 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 and up from 25 percent in the first quarter of 2011.
The average sales price of a home in foreclosure or bank owned was $161,214 in the first quarter, down 1 percent from the fourth quarter and down 2 percent from the first quarter a year earlier.
The average sales price, however, was 27 percent below the price of a home not owned by a bank or with a mortgage not in trouble in the first quarter.
"Foreclosure-related sales picked up in the first quarter, particularly pre-foreclosure sales where a distressed homeowner is selling to avoid foreclosure -- typically via short sale," said Brandon Moore, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac.
In a short sale, the owner sells the home for less than what is owed on the property.
"Those pre-foreclosure sales hit a three-year high in the first quarter even as the average pre-foreclosure sales price dropped to a record low for our report. Lenders are approving more aggressively priced short sales, which in turn is resulting in more successful short sale transactions," he said.
Rosie O'Donnell unveils nearly 50-pound weight loss
Justin Bieber crashes Drake Bell's album release party