Foreclosure activity continues to climb in New Jersey, according to a report released Thursday by RealtyTrac

Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Across the U.S., foreclosure activity increased by 5 percent in January.  The hike was driven primarily by a 55 percent monthly jump in bank repossessions to a 15-month high.  In New Jersey, bank repossessions were up 116 percent in January, marking a 51-month high.

"It's getting worse rather than better, although for the most part, there are some exceptions in some of the New Jersey markets that are struggling economically," said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac. "It was the highest level we've seen since back in October of 2010."

In New Jersey, one in every 773 housing units has a foreclosure filing.  Florida is at the top with one in every 441 housing units followed by Nevada with one in every 495 housing units. Among metropolitan areas, Atlantic City posted the highest foreclosure rate, beating Las Vegas, Tampa, Orlando and Miami.

Part of the problem in New Jersey, according to Blomquist, is that the state's foreclosure legal process is longer than other states.

"For the most part, these are not new problems that are coming to light. This is still leftover wreckage from the housing bust back in 2008, 2009 and 2010 that is just taking a long time to cleanup," Blomquist said.

Twenty-one states posted annual increases in scheduled foreclosure auctions, including New Jersey which saw a 125 percent increase in auctions in January.  Massachusetts was up 268 percent and North Carolina was up 111 percent.

"I focused a lot on the bank repossessions, but what this also tells me is that there is more of this coming.  There is also a big jump in New Jersey in these scheduled auctions, the foreclosure auctions and sheriff's sales. That tells me that we are not through this, this is going to continue," Blomquist said.

Despite January's numbers, it's not all doom and gloom.

"The silver lining, I think, is this can run in parallel to the housing recovery," Blomquist said. "The foreclosures can run in parallel to the recovery, and not derail the housing recovery, although it may weaken the housing recovery as these properties hit the market."

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