Metropolitan areas in Florida and three Western states accounted for the 26 highest foreclosure-filing rates in the first quarter, a foreclosure-listing service says.

RealtyTrac Inc. reported Tuesday that the Sunshine State — along with California, Nevada and Arizona — led the list with metropolitan areas having 200,000 or more people.

RealtyTrac chief executive James J. Saccacio said the high levels of foreclosure activity in those states "paint a picture of concentrated problems in a relatively small number of hard-hit areas."

The four states have been among the hardest-hit when it comes to home-price declines and rising unemployment. In March, the year-over-year change in joblessness was 4.8 percentage points in California and Nevada, 4.3 points in Florida and 3.1 points in Arizona.

In the quarter, 4.48% of Las Vegas' housing units were under a foreclosure filing, seven times the national average. The Merced, Calif., area recorded the second-highest rate, 4.21%, and Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., ranked third, at 3.85%.

Still, Saccacio said, sales activity appears to be rising in some markets in the four states as home prices have fallen to levels attractive to first-time homebuyers and investors.

Five other California metropolitan areas rounded out the top 10 along with Phoenix and Port St. Lucie, Fla. Half of the top 26 were in California, and nine were in Florida.

Less-populated Nevada and Arizona each had two.

Last week, RealtyTrac reported that the number of U.S. properties on which a foreclosure filing was received grew 24% in the first quarter, from a year earlier; many lenders and servicers resumed executing foreclosures as influence from the federal government's foreclosure-prevention efforts waned.

Saccacio said RealtyTrac expects many of the hardest-hit metropolitan areas to report high foreclosure activity throughout this year, but he said other markets would rise up the ranks as unemployment surges throughout the United States.

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