Although there are monthly variations in the number of foreclosures around the country, it is usually not difficult to figure which states will be the leaders. Arizona continues to rank in the top three, but there are a few surprises in the national distressed sale numbers. In mid-March, the top ten states with the highest foreclosure rates (based on foreclosure filings in February 2009) were:

Rank State # of Housing Units
1 Nevada 1 in every 70 housing units
2 Arizona 1 in every 147 housing units
3 California 1 in every 165 housing units
4 Florida 1 in every 188 housing units
5 Idaho 1 in every 358 housing units
6 Michigan 1 in every 360 housing units
7 Illinois 1 in every 369 housing units
8 Georgia 1 in every 389 housing units
9 Oregon 1 in every 446 housing units
10 Ohio 1 in every 451 housing units

Colorado and New Jersey have fallen out of the top ten in 2008 and are now ranked number 11 and number 29, respectively, but I suspect Colorado will reappear in the top 10 soon. Ohio, which was ranked with the highest amount of foreclosures in recent years, dropped to number 10 in the third quarter of 2008 and held steady at number 10 during the first quarter of 2009. However, the ratio of foreclosure filings in Ohio has dropped from 1 in every 417 housing units in the third quarter of 2008, to 1 in every 451 housing units in 2009.

That Michigan is in the top 10 is no surprise, but Idaho? Maybe the answer to that mystery is that the number of vacation homes that have been built there. As we have seen in the metropolitan Phoenix area, second or investment homes are the first properties to be let go in a rapidly declining real estate market and depressed economy.

States with the lowest foreclosure rates in the first quarter of this year include Nebraska at number 50, Vermont at number 49 and South Dakota at number 48. No doubt that reflects the modest growth that those states experienced in recent years, and perhaps the prudence of their residents.