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Already, housing experts predict home prices will slide another 5 percent this year.

“You could have a scenario where housing prices could be pushed lower,” Sharga said.

Foreclosure sales, like home sales overall, fell sharply in the last three months of the year. Government tax credits earlier in 2010 helped gin up home sales, but pulled forward transactions that would have typically occurred later in the year.

Lenders’ efforts to deal with foreclosure documentation problems and heightened scrutiny in states where courts play a role in the foreclosure process also dampened sales of bank-owned homes.

That slowdown began to ease in December, however, and foreclosure sales spiked 21 percent, the firm said.

Nevada, Arizona and California had the highest percentage of foreclosure sales last year.

Nevada led the nation with foreclosure sales accounting for nearly 57 percent of all home sales, RealtyTrac said. That was down from 67 percent the year before.

Several other states had foreclosure sales that accounted for at least one quarter of all home sales last year: Florida, Michigan, Georgia, Idaho, Oregon, Illinois, Virginia and Colorado.