The state had nearly two years of artificially low foreclosure activity before the past year of elevated numbers, Blomquist said. He thinks two years of increased foreclosures will balance out the previous period. One year down, he said, another to go.

Mark Kaufman, Maryland's commissioner of financial regulation, also said some lenders have been slow to move on foreclosure actions. Bank of America, in particular, he said, has a backlog of severely delinquent loans that substantially outweighs its market share. The bank did not respond to requests for comment.

The General Assembly's consumer protections have helped to keep people in their homes, proponents contend.

"Foreclosure mediations really have given struggling homeowners at least a small shed of control over the foreclosure action," Jarvis said.

According to data from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a division of the U.S. Treasury Department, 30 percent more Maryland borrowers received loan modifications in the past 21/2 years than borrowers in Virginia, even though Maryland's mortgage market is one-third smaller. That translated to nearly 11,000 more homeowners aided in Maryland.

By the end of the first quarter of this year, Maryland borrowers had received $1.3 billion in relief from mortgage servicers through the national mortgage settlement, mainly in the form of lien forgiveness or short sale approval.

Virginia consumers have received just $933 million in relief from the settlement, which resolved accusations by 49 states' attorneys general and the Justice Department that the five largest mortgage servicers in the United States engaged in abusive servicing and foreclosure practices, including robo-signing.

The difference, experts say, is largely due to the difference in the state's foreclosure laws and the availability of assistance resources.

"Our processes and procedures have saved literally thousands of homeowners from going into foreclosure, and we feel good about that," Skinner said.

Skinner also notes that short-term delinquencies are down, an early indicator that the number of property owners falling behind on payments is on the wane.

Moreover, Skinner and Kaufman agree, banks are more likely to move through foreclosures as the market improves. Lenders know they can get a better price now, Skinner said.

"As the market firms, it's an easier decision to move what's been sitting on the sidelines," Kaufman said.

The proportion of distressed sales is down in nearly every part of the state, said Vladimir Kats, a real estate agent with the Kats & Associates team at Keller Williams Realty Baltimore who specializes in short sales.

"It's the right policy with a short-term perspective in mind, without a doubt," Kats said of Maryland's revised foreclosure process. Whether it will have the best long-term outcomes is unclear, he said.

"It does help one homeowner. Mediation does help. ... I've seen credit histories saved," he said. "Does it help the entire state of Maryland over two decades? That's a question that I just can't answer."

steve.kilar@baltsun.com

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