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Foreclosures jump in Utah

Increase is 78% over year ago; state’s filing rate is 18th in U.S.

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The foreclosure rate in Utah jumped by nearly 78 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period last year, according to a report released Monday.

The RealtyTrac report also showed that the number of foreclosures in the Beehive State increased 34 percent from the fourth quarter 2007 to the first quarter of this year.

Utah ranked 18th in the nation in the number of homes in foreclosure. One in every 274 households in Utah had received a foreclosure filing in the first quarter, compared to the national average of one in 194 households.

Nationally, Nevada topped the list, with one in every 54 households receiving foreclosure filing, followed by California at one in 78 households, and Arizona at one in 95.

"Utah had previously avoided some of the spikes in foreclosure activity that we were seeing in other areas," said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac marketing and communications manager. "This quarter was the quarter where Utah and the Salt Lake City are really did see a good-sized jump in foreclosure activity."

Blomquist said the Salt Lake City metro area saw a 69 percent increase in foreclosures in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period last year, and a nearly 23 percent increase since the fourth quarter of last year. Salt Lake ranked 58th among the top 100 U.S. metro foreclosure markets at a rate of one in every 255 households receiving a foreclosure filing.

Realty Trac publishes a national database of foreclosure and bank-owned properties from approximately 2,500 counties across the nation.

Metro areas in California and Florida metro areas accounted for 13 of the top 20 metro foreclosure rates, with the California cities of Stockton and Riverside-San Bernardino taking the first and second spots, according to the report.

One in every 30 Stockton households received a foreclosure filing during the quarter, followed by Riverside-San Bernardino, with and one in every 38 households. Las Vegas was third at one in 44 households; Bakersfield, Calif. was fourth at one in 51; and Sacramento ranked fifth, at one in 55 households.

As many families struggle to pay their mortgages, a report released Monday by Hope Now, a Bush administration-organized effort to help at-risk borrowers, showed that nearly 503,000 borrowers received some form of mortgage-loan assistance during the first quarter of 2008, although most of the help was temporary. Members of Hope Now include Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Washington Mutual Inc. and Wells Fargo and Co.

Another likely residual effect of the housing crunch is an increase in the percentage of vacant homes for sale in the United States, which set a new record high in the first quarter of this year, the government said Monday.

A Census Bureau report showed that 2.9 percent of U.S. homes, excluding rental properties, were vacant and up for sale, compared with 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007. It was the highest quarterly number in records going back to 1956.

Vacancy rates in the West had the biggest rise, increasing to 7 percent in the January-March period, compared with 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

Nationally, the vacancy rate, including new and existing homes, has been rising steadily since mid-2005. The report did not break down vacancy rates by state or city.

Contributing: Associated Press

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com