December filings were up 14 percent, according to RealtyTrac, which monitors foreclosure activity nationally. A property may receive multiple filings.
December marked was the biggest annual drop since RealtyTrac started publishing its reports in January 2005. Filings nationally reached the lowest monthly total since June 2008 — 21/2 years.
Foreclosure filings "would have easily exceeded 3 million in 2010" had it not been for the fourth-quarter drop, said James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac's chief executive.
He attributed most of the drop to the simmering controversy over foreclosure documentation and procedures. It prompted many major lenders to temporarily halt some proceedings, he said.
"Even so, 2010 foreclosure activity still hit a record high for our report, and many of the foreclosure proceedings that were stopped in late 2010 — which we estimate may be as high as a quarter million — will likely be re-started and add to the numbers in early 2011," he said.
Virginia ranked 19th among states for its 2010 foreclosure rate and 27th for its December rate, according to the report.
What will 2011 bring? Hard to say, said Vinod Agarwal, an Old Dominion University economics professor.
"It is all dependent on the economic conditions, how many jobs are going to be created and so forth," Agarwal said. "The economy has to improve. Until the economy improves, you're going to continue to see a substantial amount of foreclosures."
In 2010, 1,363 properties in Newport News and 1,040 properties in Hampton received foreclosure filings. That translates into 1.73 percent of the cities' housing units, or the equivalent of one filing for every 58 units, according to RealtyTrac.
James City County recorded 405 filings, which is 1.41 percent of housing units or one for every 71 units. York County had 130 filings, which is 0.52 percent of housing units or one for every 191 units.
Gloucester County had 204 filings, which is 1.24 percent of housing units or one for every 81 units.
Isle of Wight County had 147 filings, the equivalent of 1 percent of housing units or one for every 100 units.
Poquoson had 40 filings, or 0.84 percent of housing units. That's translates into one filing for every 118 units.
Mathews County had 41 filings. That's 0.71 percent of housing units or one for every 142 units.
Middlesex County had 33 filings, which is 0.46 percent of housing units or one for every 219 units.
Williamsburg had no filings.
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