The foreclosure rate in the Bakersfield-Delano area was 3.02 percent in March, down slightly from 3.82 percent a year earlier and lower than the national foreclosure rate of 3.41 percent, according to newly released figures from real estate data firm CoreLogic.

The report counted properties in any stage of the foreclosure process.

California was among the five states with the largest decline in foreclosure activity since the peak of the housing market. Activity in the state fell 42.7 percent during that period.

The others were Nevada (-59.9 percent), Arizona (-48.6 percent), Florida (-48.1 percent), and Michigan (-45.1 percent).

CoreLogic also looked at 90-day delinquent mortgage loans, which can be an indication of future foreclosures.

The 90-day delinquency rate for Bakersfield-Delano was 8.06 percent in March, compared with 6.84 percent in California and 7.18 percent nationwide.

Foreclosures have been falling for several years now, but not quickly enough for most.

"It's getting better, just really slowly," said Assistant Kern County Assessor Anthony Ansolabehere.

The number of homes in Kern County that were sold at auction after a foreclosure was 328 in April, down 51 percent from 583 a year earlier.

While that would seem to be good news for the market, that decline -- combined with the so-called shadow inventory of homes that lenders have taken back but not yet placed on the market -- has resulted in an extremely limited supply of local homes for sale.

Anything priced $100,000 or lower in reasonably good condition doesn't sit long and usually draws multiple bids, Ansolabehere said.

"The demand is there. We've got plenty of buyers, but they've had a hard time getting houses," said Scott Tobias, a broker with Prudential Tobias Realtors and president of the Bakersfield Association of Realtors.

That's putting upward pressure on local home prices. The median sale price of an existing single family home in the Bakersfield area rose to $145,000 in April, a 9.5 percent increase from March and up 14.3 percent from a year ago, according to the Crabtree Report, a gauge of the local housing market.

But in the nation's largest markets, home prices ended the first quarter at their lowest point since the onset of the housing crisis, according to Standard and Poor's/Case-Shiller Index of prices in 20 major cities.

In those cities, prices dropped 2.6 percent in March compared with the same month a year earlier.