Nearly 30 percent of first-quarter home sales in the Washington area were foreclosure sales -- a major signal that the housing market still faces an uphill climb.

Local figures varied, however: Foreclosures accounted for more than half of home sales in some parts of the region, but less than 10 percent in the District. In fact, the District's 9.73 percent was among the lowest in the country.

"Honestly, I have seen a huge drop-off in foreclosures," said Danilo Bogdanovic, a real estate agent in Northern Virginia.

Still, among states, Virginia was 12th in percentage of home sales that were foreclosures, at 31.25 percent, and Maryland was 21st, at 20.33 percent.

Nevada had the highest percentage, at 63.5 percent, while Iowa had the lowest, at 7.65 percent, according to data released Wednesday by RealtyTrac, a company that tracks and markets foreclosed properties. Nationally, the figure was about 31 percent, compared with 37.4 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

The percentage of home sales that were foreclosures reached about 1 percent in 2005 and 2006, during the height of the housing bubble, said Daren Blomquist, a spokesman for RealtyTrac.

"We've ramped up rapidly from that point over the last few years," he said.

Foreclosure sales comprise a significant portion of sales in Washington-area jurisdictions. In Prince William County, for example, 51 percent of first-quarter sales were foreclosures -- down from 69 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

Foreclosure flood ">   Jurisdiction First-quarter 2010 sales Percent of all sales First-quarter 2009 sales Percent of all sales District: 182 9.73% 294 15.55% Montgomery County: 704 21.97% 705 19.55% Prince George's County: 881 34.58% 987 31.11% Alexandria: 62 16.36% 123 30.98% Arlington County: 65 10.53% 97 14.81% Fairfax County 791 32.26% 1,715 49.21% Loudoun County: 393 32.16% 562 39.52% Prince William County: 880 51.10% 2,183 68.84% Maryland: 3,547 20.33% 3,906 18.33% Virginia: 4,885 31.25% 7,734 37.35% U.S.: 232,959 31.04% 348,629 37.42%   Source: RealtyTrac


"Going from 70 percent to 50 percent -- the numbers are still so high, I think all it tells you is there [are] still a lot of foreclosures in the pipeline," said Jeff Werling, executive director of Inforum, a University of Maryland-based economic forecasting project. "It doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet."

About one-third of home sales in Fairfax and Loudoun counties were foreclosures, but those percentages were lower than they were a year ago.

The Maryland suburbs, which have lagged Virginia's housing market during the housing bust and nascent recovery, saw a slight uptick.

Foreclosures reached 34.58 percent of all Prince George's County home sales in the first quarter, up from 31.11 percent a year earlier. In Montgomery County, the percentage ticked up from 19.55 to 21.97 -- still well below the national and regional average.

RealtyTrac defines a "foreclosure sale" as a sale of a property that occurs while the property is in some stage of foreclosure, which includes default, auction, and bank-owned properties.