A surge in home auctions last month helped drive the biggest gain in foreclosure activity in the United States in more than four years, according to a report from RealtyTrac. RealtyTrac, which tracks housing market data, said banks last month scheduled 59,869 homes for auction, the highest rate in 17 months. The increase helped lift overall foreclosure filings by 15 per cent to 123,109 properties. It was the largest monthly gain since foreclosure activity peaked in March 2010, although the number of filings was still down 8 per cent from a year ago. Foreclosure activity, which includes foreclosure notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, has declined on a year-on-year basis for 49 consecutive months. "The October foreclosure numbers are not a complete surprise, given that over the past three years, there has been an average 8 per cent monthly uptick in scheduled foreclosure auctions in October as banks try to get ahead of the usual holiday foreclosure moratoriums," RealtyTrac vice-president Daren Blomquist said. The magnitude of the increase, he said, demonstrated that distressed properties that had been in a holding pattern for years were finally being cleared at foreclosure auctions. Lenders reclaimed 27,914 homes in October, a 22 per cent increase from the month before and the largest monthly rise since June 2009. A total of 59,869 properties were set for foreclosure auctions, a 24 per cent gain, while foreclosure starts were up 12 per cent, with new filings on 56,452 properties. Maryland had the country's highest foreclosure rates in October, with a 68 per cent jump in foreclosure activity.