Completed foreclosures soared 67% in February over January, putting them at their highest since the start of the foreclosure crisis, according to foreclosure-listing service ForeclosureS.com.
The surge to 121,756 comes just a month after the firm said foreclosures fell sharply in January, leading to speculation that the market might be seeing a turnaround. It also comes amid rapidly rising unemployment and continued tightness in the credit markets, which makes it tough for consumers to refinance existing loans.
February's increase occurred despite the fact that several major banks along with government mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have imposed temporary halts on foreclosures.
Pre-foreclosure filings, which are an indicator of future completed foreclosures, jumped 27% to 207,703, beating the previous monthly high from December by 9%.
California, which is considered the epicenter of the housing crisis and has been one of the hardest-hit markets, saw foreclosures soar 67% from January. The total is still down 25% from September, however, when the state's index peaked and state legislature adopted a law to slow foreclosures.
Florida's foreclosures rose 42%, while Arizona's more than doubled.
ForeclosureS.com President Alexis McGee said if foreclosures continued unabated, "we could end up with another about 1.2 million homes back in lenders' hands by year-end." She added she was hopeful that President Barack Obama's plan to turn the tide of foreclosures would take hold.
Late last month, government data showed existing-home sales tumbled to a nearly 12-year low in January, as prices took a double-digit drop. That's after sales posted a surprise gain in December.