By Alan Zibel -- AP Real Estate Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of American households threatened with losing their homes grew 24 percent in the first three months of this year and is poised to rise further as major lenders restart foreclosures after a temporary break, according to data released Thursday.
The big unknown for the coming months, however, is President Barack Obama's plan to help up to 9 million borrowers avoid foreclosure through refinanced mortgages or modified loans. The Obama administration expects its plans to make a big dent in the foreclosure crisis. But it remains to be seen whether the lending industry will fully embrace it, despite $75 billion in incentive payments.
The faltering economy is causing the housing crisis to spread. Nationwide, nearly 804,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice from January through March, up from about 650,000 in the same time period a year earlier, according to RealtyTrac Inc., a foreclosure listing firm. During the quarter, Ohio was the state with the seventh highest number of homes seeing foreclosure activity with about 31,600 receiving at least one filing, up 1 percent from a year earlier.
In March, more than 340,000 properties were affected nationwide, up 17 percent from February and 46 percent from a year earlier. Ohio had 12,600 homes receiving foreclosure notices during the month, 12 percent more than during March 2008.
Foreclosures "came back with a vengeance" last month and are likely to keep rising, said Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac's senior vice president for marketing.
Nearly 191,000 properties completed the foreclosure process and were repossessed by banks in the quarter. While the number was down 13 percent from the fourth quarter of last year, it is expected to rise through the summer and then possibly taper off.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the big mortgage finance companies, together with many banks had temporarily halted foreclosures in advance of Obama's plan. Now armed with the details about which borrowers can qualify, the mortgage industry has begun foreclosing on ineligible borrowers.