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A firm that follows foreclosure filings, RealtyTrac, says foreclosure activity was up in July. Though, as NPR's Tamara Keith reports, the situation is improved from last year.

TAMARA KEITH: This report is a bit like a funhouse mirror. You look at it one way and you see one thing. You look at it another way, and the picture changes entirely. On one side, the number of homes taken back by banks reached the second-highest monthly total since the start of the foreclosure crisis: more than 90,000 homes repossessed in just one month. But on the other side, the number of homes in the early stages of foreclosure are way down: more than 30 percent from their peak early last year.

Ms. CELIA CHEN (Moody's Analytics): The default notices, the scheduled auctions. Those are at least decreasing on a year-over-year basis.

KEITH: Celia Chen covers housing markets for Moody's Analytics.

Ms. CHEN: So, that means we're working through the problem. We're going to feel the pain for a little bit longer, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

KEITH: But Marietta Rodriguez at Neighborworks America, a housing counseling organization, sees something entirely different.

Ms. MARIETTA RODRIGUEZ (Neighborworks America): I think we need to be quite cautious in breathing a sigh of relief.

KEITH: She says unemployment continues to be a problem, pushing homeowners over the edge. And there's a whole new crop of loans that, in the next year, will reset, making the payments harder to handle.

Ms. RODRIGUEZ: On the ground, our counselors are telling us they're seeing more and more consumers, more and more borrowers seeking help, that their numbers are not decreasing.

KEITH: And pretty much everyone one agrees, the only way those numbers are going to start falling is for the jobs picture to improve - a lot.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington.

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