U.S. foreclosure activity increased in July for the first time in four months as lenders scheduled more properties for auction, according to RealtyTrac, which compiles housing market data.

RealtyTrac on Thursday reported in its U.S. Foreclosure Market Report that 109,434 properties nationwide were in some stage of the foreclosure process, marking a 2% increase from June but down 16% from a year ago.
Foreclosure filings include default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions.

Despite the rise, foreclosure activity, it was the 46th consecutive month in which activity declined on an annual basis. One in every 1,203 U.S. housing units had a foreclosure filing during July, according to the report.

Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, said, "After nearly four years of falling foreclosures, we are starting to see evidence that foreclosure numbers are normalizing at the national level. If we see a string of four to six months of monthly increases, that will certainly be cause for concern, but we're not there yet."

The number of state and local markets with persistent foreclosure problems is fewer and farther between, Blomquist added, although there were some surprise spikes in foreclosure activity in July in markets that had previously been experiencing long-term downward trends in foreclosure activity.

Decreasing foreclosure activity has helped undercut the supply of properties on the market, pushing prices up and slowing sales. Rising mortgage rates also have slowed the housing recovery.

Lenders reclaimed 25,937 properties in July, down 4% from June and 30% below the year-ago level. A total of 51,595 properties were set for foreclosure auctions last month, a 10% rise from June but still 3% below last year's levels.

Lenders started the foreclosure process on 49,624 properties in July, up 5% from the prior month, but down 18% from the same time last year.

Florida had the nation's highest foreclosure rate fore the tenth consecutive month, followed by Maryland, Nevada and Illinois.

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