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A new report indicates that foreclosures were at their lowest in four years at the close of 2011, despite the negative press in the housing market. RealtyTrac statistics show foreclosure filings dropped 34% for the year in 2011, although the actual numbers may be artificially low due to processing delays and overworked courts. Analysts believe these delays may result in an overall foreclosure increase in 2012, but still remain below peak levels seen in the past. States with the highest foreclosure rates last year included Nevada, Arizona and California. For more on this continue reading the following article from TheStreet.

Foreclosure filings decreased by 34% in 2011, according to a year-end report from RealtyTrac, a firm that monitors the foreclosure market.

A total of 2,698,967 properties entered some stage of foreclosure - default notice, scheduled auction or bank repossession - last year. The report shows that 1.45% of U.S. housing units (one in 69) had at least one foreclosure filing during the year, down from 2.23% in 2010, 2.21% in 2009 and 1.84% in 2008. Total U.S. foreclosure activity and the U.S. foreclosure rate in 2011 were both at their lowest annual level since 2007.

RealtyTrac says that while the current foreclosure rate is still artificially low, thanks largely to delays in court proceedings, it still represents improvements in the housing market.

"If you take away the delays, I think we would have seen decreases [in foreclosure activity] anyway," says Daren Blomquist, director of marketing communications for RealtyTrac. Still, RealtyTrac says there are indicators - such as a heightened level of default notices in certain hardest-hit areas - that foreclosure numbers will increase during the early months of 2012 before tapering off to less artificially inflated levels.

"We think 2012 is going to be higher than 2011, but below the peak of 2010," Blomquist says. "The worst numbers should be behind us."

The year-end report was capped by a month in which foreclosure totals were at a 49-month low. In December, filings were reported on 205,024 U.S. properties, a decrease of 9% from the previous month and down 20% from December 2010.

State by state, Nevada posted the highest rate of foreclosure for the fifth consecutive year in a row with one in every 16 housing units receiving a filing in 2011. It was followed by Arizona, where one in every 24 properties entered foreclosure, and California, where one in every 31 properties were distressed.

Other states posting high foreclosure rates in 2011 were Georgia, Michigan, Florida, Illinois, Colorado and Idaho.

This article was republished with permission from TheStreet.