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Sun Belt cities top RealtyTrac's foreclosure list

January 28, 2010 |  1:03 pm

Sun Belt cities, those busy building hubs of the boom years that count California metro areas among their ranks, continue to be fulcrums of foreclosure activity these days, the era of the post-bubble recovery, a report released this morning says.

Cities in four Sun Belt states swept the top 20 list of metro areas ravaged by repossessed homes, according real estate website RealtyTrac’s report. The report looked at metro areas with more than 200,000 people.

One was a perennial loser: Las Vegas, which has been on a big losing streak ever since the subprime lending spree folded a few years ago.

Foreclosuresign Sin City posted the nation’s highest metro foreclosure rate for 2009, with more than 12% of homes receiving a foreclosure notice last year -- more than five times the national average. Some bright news: Vegas posted a quarter-over-quarter decline in foreclosure activity in the fourth quarter -- as did all the other metro areas measured by the report, according to RealtyTrac.

California accounted for nine of the top 20 metro foreclosure rates, followed by Florida with eight, Nevada with two and Arizona with one.

In California, Merced registered the nation’s third-highest metro foreclosure rate, with more than 10% of its housing units receiving a foreclosure notice in 2009. Other California metro areas in the top 10 were the Riverside-San Bernardino market at No. 4 with 8.8% of its housing units in foreclosure, Stockton with a rate of 8.62% and Modesto -- the home of George Lucas, "American Graffiti" and convicted wife killer Scott Peterson -- at No. 6, with an 8.53% rate.

Other California cities among the top 20 include the Vallejo-Fairfield metro area with a foreclosure rate of 7.14%, Bakersfield at 7.12% and Sacramento with a 5.64% rate.

James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac’s chief executive, said economic hardship is driving much of the foreclosure activity these days.

"There is evidence that we’re entering a new wave of foreclosures, driven more by unemployment and economic hardship than what we’ve seen over the past few years,” he said. “Areas like Provo, Utah, Fayetteville, Ark., Portland, Ore., and Rockford, Ill., all posted foreclosure rates above the U.S. average in 2009. And markets like Honolulu, Minneapolis and Seattle saw foreclosure activity increase at more than twice the national pace over the past 12 months."

Check out the full results here.

-- Alejandro Lazo