Foreclosures Up Only 1%, But Pessimism Remains

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Foreclosure filings increased 1% in January, an estimate that was well below expectations according to RealtyTrac. Still, the numbers don’t indicate an early recovery for the housing market.

In total, 261,333 U.S. properties entered some stage of foreclosure - default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions – in January, and one in every 497 housing units received a foreclosure filing. The estimate represents a 1% increase from December and a 17% decrease from January 2010, but this doesn't actually represent an improvement. 

According to RealtyTrac senior vice president Rick Sharga, the numbers are still “artificially low” due to lingering effects of last year’s robo-signing controversy and subsequent foreclosure filing freeze. He called Florida, a state that experienced a 54% year-over-year decrease in foreclosure activity in January, the “poster-child” for what he felt was happening in the market. 

“There have been no indications that the housing market in Florida should be in recovery,” Sharga said. “All the states that experienced year-over-year decreases have judicial foreclosure proceedings. Lenders may have resumed [foreclosure] filings, but they could still be back-logged in court.”

Generally speaking, bank repossessions in non-judicial foreclosure states increased 23% from December but were still down 9% from January 2010, while bank repossessions in judicial foreclosure states decreased 7% from the previous month and were down 16% from January 2010.

Sharga said RealtyTrac is still expecting to see a spike in the overall foreclosure activity this quarter, despite the fact the numbers “should have gone up in January.” If they don’t, he said, RealtyTrac may have to rethink its 2011 forecast for the housing market. 

Back in December 2010, Sharga told MainStreet that his firm was expecting foreclosure filings to remain at record highs for 2011, but taper off in 2012 as the housing market began to recover. Now it seems those improvements may actually be further off.

“There are millions of delinquent loans that will lead to foreclosure filings,” Sharga said. “The question is, whether it will happen sooner or later. The later it is, the longer the housing recovery is going to take.”

State by state, Nevada maintained the nation’s highest state foreclosure rate for the 49th straight month with one in every 93 Nevada housing units receiving a foreclosure filing in January, more than five times the national average.

Arizona followed with one in every 175 housing units entering into foreclosure last month, while California, holding the nation’s third highest state foreclosure rate of 32%, saw one in every 200 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing.

The other states with high foreclosure rates were Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Michigan.

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