Foreclosures in L.A. County jumped significantly in December, but despite the month-over-month increase, last year’s foreclosure rate was down from 2013, according to a report released Thursday.

One in every 1,212 homes was in foreclosure in December, up 44 percent from November but down nearly 12 percent from the same month last year, according to RealtyTrac, an Irvine real estate data firm.

For the year, there was an 18 percent drop in foreclosures countywide to 25,608 units, down from 31,405 in 2013.

It’s likely that the December increase was part of an annual year-end trend that occurs as banks look to clear their inventory of distressed properties, said Chris Pollinger, senior vice president of sales at First Team Real Estate in Irvine, who covers the Southern California market.

“You have some of these spikes toward the end of the year. What we’re seeing is that as prices go up, banks can justify dealing with their hardest cases, the ones they wouldn’t push two years ago,” he said.

Pollinger predicted that foreclosures will dwindle this year as inland areas continue to see moderate price increases. That will enable homeowners to sell when they run into financial trouble, rather than falling into foreclosure.

In the six-county Southern California region, December brought a total of 7,058 foreclosures. Each county in the region saw a month-over-month increase in foreclosure activity, with Ventura County’s rate both rising 32 percent in December and up 16 percent from the same month last year.

Nationally, last year was the first since 2006 that the annual foreclosure rate dropped below 1 percent of all housing units, with a total of 1.1 million properties with foreclosure filings in the year, according to the data.

In the greater Valley, Palmdale again topped the list, with foreclosures in one out of every 386 homes. The other major Antelope Valley city of Lancaster also continued to struggle, with one out of every 454 homes in foreclosure.

Other Valley communities with high foreclosure rates include Sunland, with one in every 618 homes; Pacoima, with one in every 582; and Sylmar with one in every 692.

Among Valley communities with few foreclosures were La Crescenta, with one in every 1,568 homes; Glendale, with one in every 1,981; and Burbank, with one in every 1,585.