IRVINE, Calif. (


) - Looking back at the past few months, there were few surprises about which cities were hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.

California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona accounted for the 19 of the 20 major U.S. cities with the highest rates of foreclosure last quarter, according to RealtyTrac. Foreclosure activity was up in 65% of U.S. metro areas, although it declined in some of the hardest-hit cities.

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Rick Sharga, senior vice president of RealtyTrac said the foreclosure-data tracking company "probably can't give those cities a clean bill of health" either.

"Cities with the most notable improvement have really been the cities that have been hit hardest since the foreclosure epidemic got started," Sharga said in an interview with


. "And even with those improvements they still tend to be running at three, four, five times the national average rate of activity."

Although foreclosure "freezes" by big banks like

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report




JPMorgan Chase

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, and

PNC Financial Services

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got a lot of attention, Sharga said that early data for October don't show an easing in foreclosure proceedings.

The major cities with the highest foreclosure rates were:

1. Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev., with one in 25 households receiving notices

2. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., one in 35 households

3. Modesto, Calif., one in 36 households

4. Stockton, Calif., one in 39 households

5. Merced, Calif., one in 40 households

6. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., one in 41 households

7. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla., one in 41 households

8. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz., one in 44 households

9. Bakersfield, Calif., one in 44 households

10. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif., one in 45 households

The major cities with the highest rates of increase in foreclosure from the previous quarter were:

1. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., up 71%

2. Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Ill., up 35%

3. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas, up 26%

4. Detroit-Warren-Livonia, up 23%

5. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga., up 20%

"The underlying problems that are causing homeowners to miss their mortgage payments -- high unemployment, underemployment, toxic loans and negative equity -- are continuing to plague most local housing markets," RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio said in a statement. "And these historically high foreclosure rates will continue until those problems are resolved."

-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York


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