U.S. foreclosure filings in April declined by 9% from March, as one in every 387 U.S. housing units received a filing during the month, RealtyTrac announced on May 13. Filings were down by 2% over April 2009, the firm said in its report.

By type of foreclosure activity, default notices fell by 12% from March and by 27% from a year earlier. Foreclosure auctions were scheduled for 13% fewer properties in April than a month earlier, but auction activity was up 1% from April 2009. Bank repossessions (REOs) hit a record monthly high. Lenders repossessed more than 92,000 properties, a 1% increase over March and a 45% increase over a year ago.

This pattern of high REOs and declining default notices will likely persist in the near term, according to James Saccacio, RealtyTrac’s chief executive. “We expect a similar pattern to continue for most of this year, with the overall numbers staying at a high level and ripples of activity hitting the various stages of the foreclosure process as lenders systematically work through the backlog of distressed properties,” Saccacio said in the announcement.

Nevada, Arizona, Florida and California experienced the highest foreclosure rates in April. Nevada had the dubious honor of heading the list for the 40th consecutive month, the report said. California, Florida, Michigan, Illinois and Nevada accounted for 52% of the total national foreclosure filings. The 19,000 foreclosure filings Michigan property owners received in April represented a 77% increase over the year-earlier period.

RealtyTrac reported that metropolitan areas in the “sand states” of Nevada, Florida, California and Arizona continued to account for all top-10 foreclosure rates among metro areas with a population of 200,000 or more, though year-over-year foreclosures decreased in nine of those 10 areas. Only Reno-Sparks, Nev., experienced increasing annual foreclosure activity, with 1,614 properties receiving notices in April. Las Vegas held fast to the nation’s highest foreclosure rate, despite a 3% drop from April 2009.

Michael S. Fischer (msf7@columbia.edu) is a New York-based financial writer and editor and a frequent contributor to Wealth Manager.