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RealtyTrac: Foreclosures persist in Florida

Foreclosures continue to dog Florida, but the outlook appears to be brightening, experts say.

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Foreclosures continue to dog Florida, but the outlook appears to be brightening, experts say.The Sunshine State posted the nation’s highest foreclosure rate in July for the third consecutive month, according to a report from the RealtyTrac listing firm.
One in every 328 Florida homes was in some stage of foreclosure, more than three times the national average. The state also led the U.S. in total filings with 27,266, up 7 percent from a year earlier. Among metro areas, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties had the nation’s second-highest foreclosure rate, with one in 250 homes in the foreclosure process. Jacksonville ranked first, at one in 230.Although foreclosures are lingering in Florida, much of the activity is the result of lenders clearing backlogs from the housing bust, said Daren Blomquist, a spokesman for Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac.Across the state, 79 percent of loans in foreclosure were originated from 2004 to 2008, Blomquist said. In South Florida, 81 percent of loans in foreclosure were from those five years.While some analysts point to a still-sizable pool of delinquent mortgages in Florida, there is enough demand for homes to keep values from falling, Blomquist said.“A lot of things point to the fact that this is not another crisis, just the winding down of the previous crisis,” he said. “It seems pretty clear that home prices have bottomed out and they’re on the way up for the long term.”Nationally, nearly 131,000 homes were in the foreclosure process, down 32 percent from July 2012, RealtyTrac said.
During the housing downturn, California consistently topped the U.S. in total number of foreclosure filings, but Florida took the lead in January, RealtyTrac said. Filings have dropped sharply in California since the beginning of the year, when a new law took effect to guard against improper repossessions.
RealtyTrac monitors public records for three types of foreclosure filings: new cases, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions.Blomquist said he expects foreclosures to decline in Florida during the second half of 2013. Some areas already are seeing filings fall.New cases in Palm Beach County declined 68 percent in July from a year ago, according to the Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller’s office. The 387 cases filed is the lowest number since July 2006, Clerk Sharon Bock’s office said.Bock attributes the drop to a new state law that took effect July 1. Although the legislation was designed to speed up foreclosure filings, it requires lenders to have all the necessary paperwork to prove their case.“It’s too soon to say whether we’ll continue to see declining filings in the courts,” Bock said in a statement. “However, this demonstrates that banks are acting with an abundance of caution before they bring forward foreclosure cases in Florida.”Jerron Kelley, a Boca Raton foreclosure defense lawyer, said banks are more willing to approve short sales and offer mortgage modifications to homeowners in foreclosure. And with employment on the rise, some owners are catching up on past-due payments, he said.“I am a little more encouraged, yes,” Kelley said. “It’s not rosy, but it’s improving.”
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