Foreclosure activity in Maricopa County and Arizona resumed its upward climb in May, according to the latest report by RealtyTrac, an Irvine, Calif.-based foreclosure reporting service.
Last month a total of 16,865 foreclosures were reported in Arizona, up 3.8 percent from the previous month and up 31 percent from the same month a year ago. Of that total, 12,749 occurred in Maricopa County, which was up 13.5 percent from April and 31.2 percent from May a year ago.
The figures include filings in all of the phases of the foreclosure process including default and auction notices and bank repossessions.
But there was also some good news this week on the foreclosure front. Foreclosure sales are down to 30 percent of total sales from 51 percent in February, according to Jay Butler, director of realty studies at Arizona State University.
"The impact of foreclosures on the market has been the primary concern of the last year and will continue to be in the coming months, especially with the end of many hiatus programs and the weak job market" Butler said. "The fundamental mitigating factor could be the various existing and potential loan modification programs that will allow households to save their homes."
During May Arizona posted the fourth-highest state foreclosure rate in the nation, with one in every 158 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing of some type, according to RealtyTrac. That rate was topped only by Nevada, California and Florida.
In terms of actual number of filings, Arizona also ranked fourth.
So far this year, the highest number of foreclosure filings in Arizona came in March. The number dropped 14 percent in April before resuming the smaller rise in May.
The upward turn last month indicates the housing slump in Arizona still has a ways to go to be resolved, said Daren Blomquist, marketing and communications manager for RealtyTrac.
"Arizona continues to be one of the foreclosure hot spots. The foreclosure issue has legs," he said.
One of the reasons for the May jump was an increase in bank repossessions, he said.
"We believe it will happen in other states, too," he said. "We have seen a lot of programs and laws in some states that are delaying foreclosures, though Arizona was not one of them."
With the lifting of those moratoria, a flood of repossessions could be happening in future months.
"Arizona and a few other states may be at the forefront of that," he said. "Some (homes) may be saved, but realistically there will still be many that will be taken back by the lender."
Blomquist said it's too early to determine if Obama administration initiatives to reduce foreclosures are having an impact. But he said the number of trustee sale notices in Arizona declined in May by 4 percent, an indicator that some of Obama's programs may be "getting some traction."
Arizona's increase in foreclosure-related filings ran counter to the national trend. Nationwide, the number of filings in May decreased by 6 percent from the previous month to 321,480. Nationally, one in every 398 housing units received a foreclosure filing during the month.
Even with the decline, the national number was nearly 18 percent higher than the same month a year ago and was the third highest on record, said James Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. It also marked the third straight month in which the total number of properties with foreclosure filings exceeded 300,000 - a first in the four-and-a-half-year history of the company's foreclosure report, he said.
No Arizona cities made the top 10 in metro foreclosure rates in May. Las Vegas reported 14,681 filings - one in every 54 housing units, which was more than seven times the national average.
All of the other top five cities were in California: Stockton (one in 68 units), Modesto (one in 71), Riverside-San Bernardino (one in 75) and Merced (one in 78).