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The foreclosure crisis is bad, but it could be worse.

In all, 325,229 properties received foreclosure filings in July, an increase of 4% from the month before, according to RealtyTrac, a firm that tracks foreclosure data. To put this number in perspective, this means that one out of every 397 U.S. properties received a foreclosure filing last month.

Much of the increase in the number of foreclosures is due to banks moving more swiftly. RealtyTrac reports that lenders repossessed 92,858 homes, which is a 9% increase from the previous quarter and the second highest monthly amount since the firm began tracking the data in 2005.

“Declines in new default notices, which were down on a year-over-year basis for the sixth straight month in July, have been offset by near-record levels of bank repossessions, which increased on a year-over-year basis for the eighth straight month,” James J. Saccacio, CEO of RealtyTrac, said in a press release.

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Yet, despite these menacing numbers, the July data actually show an improvement compared to last year. According to RealtyTrac, there were 10% fewer foreclosures last month than there were at this time last year. Similarly, as we reported last month, the total number of foreclosures in the first six months of this year is also down 5%.

Of course, there’s still good reason to be concerned about the housing market going forward. Last month’s numbers bring the total foreclosure filings for the year so far to more than 2 million. What’s worse, there is still speculation that anywhere between 2 million and 10 million more homes may face foreclosure by 2012.

If you’re concerned that you may be at risk of foreclosure in the near future, the first and most important step is to reach out to your lender as soon as possible, even before a notice appears on your door. Contrary to popular belief, lenders are often as eager as homeowners are to avoid the costs of the foreclosure process.

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