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Florida Leads Nation in Real Estate Foreclosures

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. foreclosure starts increased 2 percent from February to March -- the second straight monthly increase following three consecutive monthly decreases -- according to real estate data-supplier RealtyTrac.

Florida, Nevada and Illinois posted the highest foreclosure rates for the first quarter, according to RealtyTrac's March and first quarter U.S. Foreclosure Market Report.  Florida had the most foreclosures of any state -- one in every 104 housing units, or nearly three times the national average.

Florida cities accounted for seven of the 10 highest metro foreclosure rates, with Miami leading every other metro area in the country for the first quarter.  Other cities in the top 10 included Las Vegas at number four, with one in every 99 housing units filing.

The U.S. overall reported 152,500 foreclosures in March, a decrease of 1 percent from February and a decrease of 23 percent from a year before.  The March decrease helped lower the total for first quarter U.S. foreclosures -- including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions -- to their lowest level since the second quarter of 2007.

Although the overall national trend continues to head downward, RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist says "late-blooming foreclosures are bolting higher" in some local markets where aggressive foreclosure-prevention efforts in previous years are wearing off.

Meanwhile, says Blomquist, in other states, more recent foreclosure-prevention efforts have drastically increased the average time to foreclosure.  Sometime down the road, he thinks, that could result in a second outbreak of delayed foreclosures.

Properties foreclosed in the first quarter took an average of 477 days to complete, up from 370 days in the first quarter of 2012.  That's the highest average time since the first quarter of 2007.

Why so dramatic an increase?

"It is being driven at the national level," Blomquist tells ABC News, "mostly by increases in states where new legislation is changing the foreclosure process and making it more difficult for lenders to foreclose."

Prime examples, he says, are the Homeowner Bill of Rights in California that took effect in January, and the Foreclosure Fairness Act in Massachusetts that took effect in November.

Oregon, Nevada and Washington, he says, have passed similar legislation in the past year and a half.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio