According to recent reports, lenders are ready to take back more homes in 2011 than any other since the U.S. housing meltdown began in 2006. About 5 million borrowers are at least two months behind on their mortgages and more will miss payments as they struggle with job losses and loans worth more than their home’s value, industry analysts forecast.

“2011 is going to be the peak,” said Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac Inc. The firm predicts 1.2 million homes will be repossessed this year by lenders. The outlook comes after banks repossessed more than 1 million homes in 2010, RealtyTrac said Thursday. That marked the highest annual total of properties lost to foreclosure on records dating back to 2005.

According to the year end reports, one in 45 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing last year, or a record high of 2.9 million homes. That’s up 1.67%from 2009. However, good news reports, that for December, 257,747 U.S. homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice. That wash the lowest monthly total in 30 months. The number of notices fell 1.8% from November and 26.3% from December 2009, RealtyTrac said. Some speculate, that the pace slowed down in the final two months of 2010 while banks reviewed their foreclosure processes after allegations surfaced in September that evictions were handled improperly. Under increased scrutiny by the government, lenders temporarily halted taking actions against borrowers severely behind on their payments. However, most banks have since resumed their eviction processes, and the first quarter will likely show a rebound in foreclosure activity, Rick Sharga said.

Arizona and California also showed sharp December increases in the number of homes the banks took back, at 52% and 47% respectively. Arizona, along with Florida, finished the year at number 2 and number 3 for the highest foreclosure rates. One in every 17 Arizona households got a foreclosure filing last year, while one in 18 received a notice in Florida. California, Utah, Georgia, Michigan, Idaho, Illinois and Colorado rounded out the top ten states with the highest foreclosure rates. More than half of the country’s foreclosure activity came out of five states in 2010: California, Florida, Arizona, Illinois and Michigan. Together, these states recorded almost 1.5 million households receiving a filing, despite year-over-year decreases in California, Florida and Arizona.