Foreclosure auctions in Minnesota were down slightly during the first three months of the year, but there was an 11 percent increase in the number of people headed toward foreclosure.

"There are signs that there's another batch of foreclosures coming down the pike in Minnesota," said RealtyTrac's Daren Blomquist.

One in 312 Minnesota homeowners with a mortgage received either an auction notice or warning of an auction. Across the country notices were filed on 572,928 properties, or one in every 230 households. RealtyTrac doesn't break out the number of auctions.

The report comes in the wake of positive movement in the real estate market. Home sales in the Twin Cities have been up by double digits for the past several months, and in March the median sale price of all closed sales was up for the first time in nearly two years. Prices were up in large part because of a significant decline in foreclosure sales, which have been putting a statistical drag on home prices for the past several years.

Blomquist said the lull in foreclosure auctions was largely a result of the robo-signing scandal and a subsequent moratorium on new foreclosure actions, and noted that there's "definitely evidence of another round of foreclosure coming down the pipeline."

How that uptick in foreclosure notices will affect the market is unclear. Blomquist said that about half of all homeowners who receive notices end up going into foreclosure and their houses are sold at auction. What's more murky is how long it will take for those bank-owned listings to work their way into the market.

Ed Nelson of the Minnesota Home Ownership Center said that while there are a lot of positives in the housing market, including more cooperation from lenders, banks still need to do a better job of helping homeowners avoid losing their homes.

Earlier this year the Home Ownership Center said that while foreclosures across Minnesota last year fell 17 percent to the lowest level since 2007, the problem was shifting from the big cities to exurban and rural areas where homeowners might not have access to services that might help them.

"Those struggling with their mortgages need to know that there is help available so that they can become part of those positive trends," Nelson said.

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376