Many of the states with a judicial foreclosure process, including Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana, should be caught up with their foreclosure backlog halfway through this year, said Daren Blomquist, a vice president at RealtyTrac.
Other states, such as New York and New Jersey, where the foreclosure process can run an average nearly three years, will continue to play catch-up through most of 2013, he added.
Blomquist expects foreclosure activity will decline in non-judicial foreclosure states through the first half of the year. But laws passed last year in California, Oregon and Nevada aimed at making it more difficult for lenders to foreclose on homeowners may end up deferring foreclosures in those states until later in the year.
"That could mean that, although we are comfortably past the peak of the foreclosure problem nationally, 2013 is likely to be book-ended by two discrete jumps in foreclosure activity," Blomquist said.
While foreclosure activity declined last year, the inventory of homes in some stage of foreclosure or in banks' possession climbed 9 percent to 1.5 million homes, RealtyTrac said.
Florida accounted for the biggest share of foreclosure inventory last year, or 20 percent of the national total.
Blomquist forecasts that between 500,000 and 600,000 homes will end up being repossessed by banks nationally this year, noting that, historically, about half of all homes that enter the foreclosure process end up being taken back by lenders. Last year, 1.1 million homes got started on the path to foreclosure.