As foreclosure activity continues to drop nationwide, it's going in the opposite direction for the Garden State. New Jersey's foreclosure rate in January put it at 13th among the states. It had been in the middle of the pack for several months.

According to RealtyTrac, close to 3,500 New Jersey properties had foreclosure filings last month. Scheduled foreclosure auctions hit a 22-month high; that's one step before the homeowners actually lose their property.

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"That indicates that lenders are not just starting the process on these homeowners. They're serious and they're moving forward," explained Daren Blomquist with RealtyTrac.

Blomquist said New Jersey experienced a 148 percent increase in foreclosure activity from December to January.

Part of the jump could be due to a seasonal dropoff at the end of last year, but Superstorm Sandy may have also played a role.

"Sandy affected a temporary slowdown in foreclosure activity in November and December," Blomquist said. "We could be seeing, in January, a bit of a catch-up."

The state's foreclosure figures have been dreary for the past several months. Many homeowners going through the foreclosure process over the past couple of years were offered a break from the action when the federal government stepped in to address "robo-signing" foreclosure processing. Early last year, a $25 billion settlement was made between five mortgage lenders and 49 states, sending the process into overdrive.

At the national level, activity dropped seven percent from the month prior and 28 percent from a year ago. Blomquist said the continued drop is driven largely by states like California, which saw a sharp drop in notices of default with new legislation that took effect early this year.