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Georgia foreclosures down in 2011

While Georgia posted the fourth highest rate of foreclosure filings nationwide in 2011, it also saw a nearly 16 percent decline in foreclosure activity from the previous year, a new report shows.

Statewide, nearly 110,300 homes received a foreclosure filing, including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, according to California-based RealtyTrac. That’s one in every 37 homes, compared with one in 69 nationally.

Across the country, nearly 1.9 million U.S. properties had a foreclosure filing last year, a 34 percent decrease from 2010.

Still, RealtyTrac CEO Brandon Moore said he expects to see a boost in foreclosure activity this year as lenders begin to move forward with foreclosures that had been deferred.

“Foreclosures were in full delay mode in 2011, resulting in a dramatic drop in foreclosure activity,” Moore said in a statement.

In 2010, foreclosure activity became bogged down with investigations into cases of robo-signing – involving lenders filing misdated, improper or forged paperwork in foreclosures.

Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate last year for the fifth year in a row with one in 16 homes having a foreclosure filing, followed by Arizona and California, RealtyTrac reported.

Ten of the top 20 metro areas for foreclosure were in California. Las Vegas ranked No. 1, and Atlanta had the 12th highest rate.

Foreclosures in Georgia will likely start to creep upward again this year as major banks, such as Bank of America, restart the process following the robo-signing problems, said Bill Cook, who has been investing in foreclosure properties in Bartow County since 1995. Lenders need to deal with a mass of vacant homes before they'll loan again, Cook said.

Some people have stayed in their houses after foreclosures because lenders have been so swamped and haven’t taken action, he added. “It’s just a great big mess out there.”