updated 12/10/2009 10:29:54 AM ET 2009-12-10T15:29:54

The number of homeowners on the brink of foreclosure fell in November, the fourth straight monthly decline, as mortgage companies evaluated whether borrowers were eligible for help.

Nearly 307,000 households, or one in every 417 homes, received a foreclosure-related notice in November, down 8 percent from a month earlier, RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday. Banks repossessed about 77,000 homes last month, down slightly from October.

Millions of borrowers are still being evaluated for the Obama administration's foreclosure prevention effort. States are also trying to delay the foreclosure process, temporarily lowering foreclosure numbers.

But the foreclosure crisis is likely to get worse before it gets better.

"We don't really believe the underlying problems have been resolved," said Rick Sharga, senior vice president at the Irvine, Calif.-based foreclosure listing service. Many borrowers, he said, "simply aren't going to qualify" for help.

Foreclosure filings were still up 18 percent from a year ago, and a new wave is expected next year as unemployment remains high and borrowers fall out of loan modification programs.

Nevada's posted the nation's highest foreclosure rate, followed by Florida, California, Arizona and Idaho. Rounding out the top 10 were Michigan, Illinois, Utah, Maryland and New Jersey.

Among cities, Merced, Calif. had the highest rate, with one in 83 homes receiving a foreclosure filing. It was followed by fellow California cities Stockton and Modesto, and Cape-Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.

Las Vegas, which had been No. 1 on that list for four-straight months, fell to No. 5. Nevada recently adopted a program that requires mediation before banks can seize a property.

Nationwide, a report Wednesday showed only about 10,000 homeowners received permanent loan modifications this fall under the Obama administration's mortgage relief plan, more evidence of serious failings in the government's effort.

Elizabeth Warren, chair of a watchdog panel, told reporters that the program is "not working" and that it had failed to make a dent in the record level of foreclosures. More than 14 percent of homeowners with a mortgage are either late on their payments or in foreclosure, and that number is expected to keep rising as unemployment remains stubbornly high.

The Treasury Department said on Thursday that losses from the government's $700 billion financial rescue fund are likely to rise as disbursements to battle mortgage foreclosures increase.

In a financial report on the program that accompanied a watchdog agency audit on Wednesday, the Treasury had said the program had estimated losses related to loans, equity investments and asset guarantees of $41.4 billion in its first year of operation.

"As additional funds are disbursed, particularly for the housing initiative, the total cost of TARP is likely to rise," the Treasury said in a statement on Thursday. The administration has estimated the program, which it has extended to October of next year, will ultimately lose $141 billion.

Data through October showed that fewer than 5 percent of homeowners who completed the trial periods had their mortgage payments permanently lowered to more affordable levels.

Under the program, eligible borrowers who are behind or at risk of default can have their mortgage interest rate reduced to as low as 2 percent for five years. They are given temporary modifications, which are supposed to become permanent after borrowers make three payments on time and complete the required paperwork, including proof of income and a hardship letter.

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