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Merced County moves past Stanislaus into foreclosure top spot

It's a title no one wants, but counties in the Northern San Joaquin Valley keep passing around the undesirable honor of having America's highest home foreclosure rate.

Merced County is the latest to get that title, pushing Stanislaus County into the No. 2 spot and San Joaquin County into No. 3.

September filings show Merced County had the nation's highest percentage of homes in the foreclosure process. An estimated 1-in-68 homes there received some type of foreclosure notice last month, according to RealtyTrac, which monitors such statistics.

That's more than eight-times the national rate of 1-in-557 homes.

Merced County had a record-high 1,137 foreclosure filings last month, including notices of default, notices of trustee sale and homes repossessed by lenders.

Stanislaus County held the worst-in-the-nation foreclosure title in August, but it improved a bit last month. RealtyTrac reported 1,892 foreclosure filings in the county in September, which was 1-in-88 homes.

San Joaquin County, which was worst-in-the-nation in July, also improved a little. It had 2,422 foreclosure filings, effecting about 1-in-90 homes.

The three Northern San Joaquin Valley counties have been at or near the top of the dreaded foreclosure ranking every month for about a year.

Real estate experts blame the region's foreclosure woes on a "perfect storm" caused by mortgage rates adjusting to unaffordable levels at the same time home values have fallen and sales have slumped.

For information, see Thursday's Bee or