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Foreclosure activity drops in first quarter but rises in March

Foreclosures dropped in the first quarter of 2011.

Foreclosures dropped in the first quarter of 2011.

Foreclosure activity has reached record levels in recent months but a new report indicates that rate may be on its way down.

RealtyTrac recently reported that 681,153 foreclosure filings were made in the first quarter of this year. While that number may seem high, it's a 15 percent decrease compared to the fourth quarter of 2010 and a near 30 percent drop compared to the same quarter 12 months ago.

It's a different story, however, when looking at distressed property activity for March alone. Foreclosures increased 7 percent last month as 239,795 filings were made.

"The nation's housing market continued to languish in the first quarter," said James Saccacio, CEO of RealtyTrac. "Weak demand, declining home prices and the lack of credit availability are weight heavily on the market." Saccacio said another factor affecting the rate of buying is fewer people are moving because they can't attain the loans they need.

Earlier this month, MSNBC.com reported that real estate agencies have cited stricter lending standards as being the chief reason for the sluggish rate of sales.