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Topic focus: foreclosure starts and their troubling uptick

Here is some potentially disquieting news provided by a mortgage analysis firm: Although national delinquency rates continue to fall across the country generally for the country's homeowners, foreclosure starts spiked in January.

And sharply. Financial services firm Black Knight states that foreclosure activity rose nationally by about 5.5 percent from December through the first month of this year.

Translated to hard numbers that might look flatly glaring to some readers in Arkansas and elsewhere, that means this: Foreclosure starts reportedly numbered 94,300 during January.

Any way you parse that number, it is certainly eye-opening and a reminder that, notwithstanding the nation's claw back in recent years from the nadir of the so-called Great Recession, things continue to be bleak for many American consumers on the home front.

Does January's number merely represent a bleep on the foreclosure radar screen or does it perhaps signify something a bit more concerning and indicative of an emerging trend?

Certainly, no one wants the latter, given the harsh adverse fallout that has accompanied high numbers of home foreclosures across the nation in recent years. Heightened foreclosure activity has been a hallmark of the tough times faced by many American families over the past handful-plus of years, and many people have obviously been heartened by news that has generally shown a progressive improvement regarding the foreclosure picture over time.

Any news that emerges to conflict with that seeming trend is obviously disconcerting.

As always seems to be the case with real estate, location is of paramount importance, whether a property-centered issue relates to valuation or a matter such as foreclosure.

What that means is that foreclosure rates continue to vary widely across the country. Many Arkansas homeowners continue to feel stresses, but it is certainly good to note that Arkansas is not currently regarded by Black Knight as a "top five" state for payment delinquencies.

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