Foreclosure filings rose at the slowest pace in four years in February, RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

A total of 308,524 properties received a notice of default, auction or seizure last month, or one in 418 households, the Irvine, Calif., seller of default data said. Filings rose 6% from a year earlier, the smallest increase since RealtyTrac began tracking annual changes in January 2006. They declined 2% from January.

Still, filings were up for the 50th straight month in February on an annual basis and topped 300,000 for the 12th consecutive month, RealtyTrac said.

"This leveling of the foreclosure trend is not necessarily evidence that fewer homeowners are in distress and at risk for foreclosure, but rather that foreclosure prevention programs, legislation and other processing delays are in effect capping monthly foreclosure activity," RealtyTrac's chief executive, James J. Saccacio, said in a press release.

Lenders took back 78,683 properties last month, up 6% from February 2009 and down 15% from a peak in December, RealtyTrac said.

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