By Hilary Russ
(Reuters) - New Jersey and Florida were poster children for U.S. home foreclosures last year, with both states and several of their metropolitan areas topping the list in 2015, according to RealtyTrac data released on Thursday.
New Jersey had the highest activity rate, with foreclosure filings at 1.91 percent of homes. Florida posted the second highest rate at 1.77 percent, with Maryland third at 1.60 percent.
Nationally, the rate was 0.82 percent, and overall foreclosure activity dropped to a nine-year low in 2015.
The year marked a return to normal foreclosure activity in many markets. But local economic problems led to some hot spots, particularly Atlantic City, New Jersey's distressed gambling hub, said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac vice president.
Among metropolitan areas nationwide, Atlantic City and its surrounding area had the highest rate in 2015 at 3.43 percent. The seaside resort town saw thousands of casino layoffs in 2014.
Trenton, New Jersey's capital city, was second at 2.14 percent. Florida metro areas around Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Miami rounded out the top five.
"Both of those states had the unfortunate combination of a massive volume of foreclosure activity spawned by the housing bubble burst along with a dysfunctional foreclosure process resulting from lenders and servicers cutting corners when it came to foreclosure documentation," said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac vice president, in an email.
The combination of volume and dysfunction "led to a long tail of distress in those states that is still being worked through," he said.
Lower oil prices also took a toll on some other housing markets last year, with foreclosure activity rising in Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Dave Gregorio)