Kentucky foreclosures rose 10% in first quarter

WASHINGTON — The number of American households threatened with losing their homes grew 24 percent in the first three months of this year and is poised to rise further as major lenders restart foreclosures after a temporary break, according to data released Thursday.

The big unknown for the coming months, however, is President Barack Obama's plan to help as many as 9 million borrowers avoid foreclosure through refinanced mortgages or modified loans. The Obama administration expects its plans to make a big dent in the foreclosure crisis. But it remains to be seen whether the lending industry will fully embrace it, despite $75 billion in incentive payments.

Nationwide, nearly 804,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice from January through March, up from about 650,000 in the same period a year earlier, according to RealtyTrac Inc., a foreclosure listing firm.

In March, more than 340,000 properties were affected, up 17 percent from February and 46 percent from a year earlier.

In Kentucky, the number of foreclosures increased 10 percent to 1,735 in the first quarter compared with a year earlier. In March, though, the number dropped 9 percent to 631.

Foreclosures "came back with a vengeance" nationally last month and are likely to keep rising, said Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac's senior vice president for marketing.

Nearly 191,000 properties completed the foreclosure process and were repossessed by banks in the quarter. The number was down 13 percent from the fourth quarter of last year, but it is expected to rise through the summer and then possibly taper off.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the big mortgage finance companies, and many banks had temporarily halted foreclosures in advance of Obama's plan. Now armed with details about which borrowers can qualify, the mortgage industry has begun foreclosing on ineligible borrowers.

In RealtyTrac's report, Nevada, Arizona, California and Florida had the nation's top foreclosure rates for the quarter. In Nevada, one in every 27 homes received a foreclosure filing. The number was one in every 54 in Arizona. Rounding out the top 10 were Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, Idaho, Utah and Oregon. Kentucky was ranked 42nd.