updated 7/30/2007 5:19:19 PM ET 2007-07-30T21:19:19

The number of U.S. homes facing foreclosure surged 58 percent in the first six months of the year, the latest sign of mounting problems in the mortgage industry, a data firm said Monday.

In all, 573,397 properties across the nation reported some sort of foreclosure activity in the first half of this year, including receiving notices of default, auction sale notices or being repossessed by lenders, Irvine-based RealtyTrac Inc. said.

That was 58 percent higher than the 363,672 properties in the first six months of 2006 and 32 percent higher than the 433,504 in the last six months of 2006.

“We could easily surpass 2 million foreclosure filings by the end of the year, which would represent a year-over-year increase of over 65 percent,” said RealtyTrac CEO James J. Saccacio.

California, Florida, Texas and Ohio were among the states with the highest number of homes receiving foreclosure-related notices, the firm said.

In the RealtyTrac report, California led the nation in foreclosure filings and the number of homes receiving notices.

Some 104,572 properties in the state received notices of default or other foreclosure notices — more than double the year-ago total and an increase of 80 percent from the previous six months, the firm said.

RealtyTrac said a total of 925,986 foreclosure filings were sent to homeowners during the first half of the year. Some of those filings targeted the same property, in part because owners had more than one mortgage.

That figure was up 56 percent from the year-ago period and up 39 percent from the last six months of 2006, the firm said.

Notices of default, the first step in the foreclosure process, accounted for the largest slice of filings during the most recent period, a total of 416,937.

The national foreclosure rate through the end of June was one filing for every 134 U.S. households, the company said.

In the past, RealtyTrac released the total number of foreclosure notices issued and did not say if a single property received more than one notice. The company is now breaking out the exact property count.

In recent months, the mortgage industry has been rocked by defaults and foreclosures, primarily driven by borrowers with subprime loans and adjustable rate mortgages.

Last week, Calabasas-based Countrywide Financial Corp., one of the biggest mortgage lenders in the U.S., said even some of the most creditworthy borrowers were having trouble making their mortgage payments.

Lagging home sales and flat or decreasing home prices have made it more difficult for homeowners who fall behind on payments to sell their homes and clear the debt, spurring the rise in foreclosure activity.

In the report, Florida was the No. 2 state for homes in some stage of foreclosure, with a total of 64,250, an increase of 77 percent year-over-year and up 41 percent from the last six months of 2006.

Ohio ranked third with 44,594 homes, followed by Texas with 41,592 and Michigan’s 40,175, the firm said.

Nevada, Colorado and California had the highest foreclosure rates, given the total number of households.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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