A shot of a white house with blue shutters, angled upwards and with a red foreclosure sign
real estate
Foreclosure forecast: Few bright spots

There's been good news and bad news on the national foreclosure scene: The good news is the number of foreclosure notices -- 223,651 -- in February 2008 went down 4 percent from a month earlier. The bad news is those same filings represent a 60 percent jump from the filings for the month of February 2007.

By now, everyone knows there is a foreclosure crisis in this country. How bad is it, really? It depends on the context. Viewing the entire country, relatively few Americans -- approximately two-tenths of 1 percent -- are in foreclosure. That's because more than half of all Americans don't have mortgages -- mostly renters, people who paid cash and longtime homeowners who have already paid off their homes.

However, when you zero in on just the homeowners who have mortgages, the picture gets more troubling. The really bad news? Almost everyone agrees the worst is yet to come.

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How bad is it?
The stark reality is that in some parts of the country, foreclosure rates were higher than home sales.

Figures compiled by the Mortgage Bankers Association, or MBA, for the National Delinquency Survey sum up the grim situation: For the third quarter of 2007, the most recent MBA survey figures available, the total delinquency rate is the highest in the MBA survey since 1986. The rate of new foreclosure filings and the percent of loans in the process of foreclosure are also at the highest levels ever.

In general, the foreclosure picture is bad everywhere -- but there's bad, and then there's really bad. In the West, things have hit particularly hard.

Consider this:
  • In Nevada, approximately one out of every 30 homes was involved in some type of foreclosure action in 2007, according to RealtyTrac figures.
  • Several metro areas of California have the dubious distinction of earning spots on the Top 10 list of foreclosures.
  • In Detroit, where massive layoffs have hit hard, foreclosure and unemployment go hand-in-hand: People who lose their jobs are much more likely to end up losing their homes. Not surprisingly, in many cities, the foreclosure rate and unemployment rates are moving at similar levels.

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