They are rolling the dice in Las Vegas these days -- on the casino craps tables but also on foreclosure charts, betting how many more homes will go under.


A first-quarter analysis of the housing market released today by Irvine, CA-based RealtyTrac shows Las Vegas continues to post the nation's highest metro foreclosure rate with one in 28 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing (3.51 percent) -- 4.9 times the national average.

A total of 28,480 Las Vegas housing units received a foreclosure filing during the quarter, an increase of nearly 13 percent from the previous quarter but a decrease of 19 percent from the first quarter of 2009.

Vegas, however, is not alone on the high-volume foreclosure list. Cities in California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona once again accounted for all top 20 foreclosure rates among metropolitan areas with a population of at least 200,000 -- even while the majority of those top metros reported decreasing foreclosure activity from the first quarter of 2009.

California accounted for 10 out of the top 20 metro foreclosure rates, followed by Florida with seven, Nevada with two and Arizona with one.

Foreclosure activity declined on a year-over-year basis in 14 of the cities in the top 20 and in eight of the cities in the top 10. In contrast, foreclosure activity in the first quarter increased on an annual basis in 159 of the 206 metro areas tracked in the report, and foreclosure activity nationwide increased 16 percent from the first quarter of 2009.

"The decreasing foreclosure activity in some of the nation's top foreclosure hot spots in the first quarter is largely the result of government intervention and other non-market influences, and not a sure signal that those areas are out of the woods yet when it comes to foreclosures," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac.

"For example, the federal government's new program designed to encourage short sales, which was launched April 5, may have caused some lenders to delay initiating foreclosure against distressed properties -- particularly in hard-hit housing markets where a short sale costs less than a foreclosure.

Top 10 metro foreclosure rates

Modesto, Calif., foreclosure activity decreased 13 percent from the first quarter of 2009, but the metro area still documented the nation's second highest metro foreclosure rate, with one in every 34 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing (2.93 percent).

Other California cities in the top 10 were Riverside-San Bernardino at No. 4 (2.82 percent), Stockton at No. 5 (2.77 percent), Merced at No. 6 (2.76 percent), Vallejo-Fairfield at No. 8 (2.41 percent) and Bakersfield at No. 9 (2.33 percent).

With one in every 35 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing (2.82 percent) the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area in Florida documented the third highest metro foreclosure rate despite foreclosure activity decreasing nearly 6 percent from the previous quarter and decreasing nearly 26 percent from the first quarter of 2009. The other Florida metro area in the top 10 was Orlando-Kissimmee at No. 10 (2.30 percent).

The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metro area in Arizona documented the nation's seventh highest metro foreclosure rate in the first quarter, with one in every 38 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing (2.63 percent). First quarter foreclosure activity in Phoenix was up 23 percent from the previous quarter and up 9 percent from the first quarter of 2009.

Cities outside Sun Belt post big increases

Several cities in the top 100 but not in the top 20 posted substantial year-over-year increases, continuing the trend of foreclosure activity spreading to areas previously protected from the brunt of the real estate slump.

Foreclosure activity increased nearly 171 percent from the first quarter of 2009 in Columbia, S.C., and the city's foreclosure rate ranked No. 99, with one in every 202 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing.

Baltimore's first quarter foreclosure rate was also below the national average, with one in every 170 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing, but the city's foreclosure activity increased nearly 141 percent from the first quarter of 2009.

Salt Lake City and Charlotte, N.C. also posted year-over-year increases in foreclosure activity of more than 100 percent.

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Q1 2010 U.S. Metro Foreclosure Market Data

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