A foreclosed house for sale in Los Angeles.
A foreclosed house for sale in Los Angeles. - 
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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: First, foreclosures in this country fell in half of the biggest metro areas. That's according to real estate data firm RealtyTrac's year-end foreclosure report, just out.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer takes a look.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: When I first saw the RealtyTrac report, I thought, hey, things are looking up. Foreclosures in Southern California's major cities fell by at least 17 percent. Las Vegas: down 7 percent.

Then I talked to Rick Sharga, senior vice president of RealtyTrac.

RICK SHARGA: We can't interpret too positive a spin on that just yet.

Sharga says foreclosure rates only fell because of "artificial forces." Some banks declared a moratorium on foreclosures after the scandal over shoddy paperwork. Sharga says, others are just too busy to launch any new foreclosures.

SHARGA: The lenders and servicers may just be stuffed to the gills with distressed properties already on their books and already in the foreclosure pipeline.

One bit of genuine good news: Sharga says loans made in the last year or so have a less than 1 percent chance of foreclosure. So things should stabilize once we get through the backlog. But Sharga doesn't expect that to happen until 2013.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.