The number of foreclosure filings - notices of default, auction notices and bank repossessions - fell by 9% from March to April, and 2% compared with April 2009, reports RealtyTrac, the online marketer of foreclosed properties.
This is the first time that has happened in the history of the report, which dates back to January 2006. Still, while foreclosures may have finally peaked, delinquency statistics likely will stay at a high level.
That's because the number of homes repossessed in April reached an all-time high of 92,432 - a 45% increase over April 2009. If repossessions continue at this pace, more than 1.1 million homes will be lost in 2010.
"There were two important milestones in the April numbers that show foreclosure activity has begun to plateau, but at a very high level that will not drop off in the near future," said RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio.
Saccacio said he expects the pattern to become the norm for many months, with the overall numbers of filings staying high, but not increasing, and repossessions remaining at record levels.
The reason that repossessions can rise while filings hold steady is that lenders are working through a backlog of delinquent properties, taking more of them through the entire process to repossession, rather than letting them linger.
The numbers of repossessed properties, also called real-estate owned or REOs, have been boosted by a spike in the number of homeowners voluntarily giving up their homes because their the value has dropped so far.
These "strategic defaults" now account for nearly one in three foreclosures, according to a recent report from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. That's up from 22% 12 months earlier.