The Real Deal Miami

PBC sees 60% surge in foreclosure filings

Statewide uptick due to "aftershocks" of foreclosure earthquake
By Sarabeth Sanders | March 10, 2010 11:14PM

Palm Beach County saw a 63 percent surge in foreclosure filings last month compared to a month earlier, according to national real estate foreclosure tracking company RealtyTrac’s monthly foreclosure market report released today (see report below). Its 4,490 filings gave it a ninth-place ranking statewide.

Foreclosure filings in Miami-Dade County jumped 44 percent to 6,671. By rate of foreclosure filings, Broward County ranked third in Florida behind Lee and St. Lucie counties with 7,872 filings in February, a 3 percent month-over-month rise.

Statewide, foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — rose nearly 15 percent in February, wiping out January’s welcome declines and signaling that a rocky road still lies ahead for struggling homeowners in the region, the data show.

One in every 163 Florida homeowners, or 54,032, received a foreclosure filing last month, up 14.79 percent from January, the report says, putting the state at third in the nation in terms of foreclosure rates, behind Nevada and — just barely — Arizona.

Bleak as the numbers may be, the statewide surge in February likely reflects a prolonged pattern of “peaks and valleys” rather than of a general worsening of the housing crisis, said Daren Blomquist, a spokesperson for RealtyTrac.

Following one peak in September 2009, statewide foreclosure filings declined several months in a row before another spike before the end of the year. Filings then dropped off by 15 percent in January prior to last month’s rebound.

One reason for the irregularities, Blomquist suggested, is Florida’s judicial foreclosure process, which has left the court system with a substantial backlog. “It could just be they were able to catch up a little on the backlog in February,” he said.

From a longer term perspective, Blomquist added, Florida foreclosures have been leveling out, just like they have been in the rest of the country.

Nationwide, February foreclosure activity declined 2 percent month-over-month to 308,524 filings, but that number represented a 6 percent year-over-year increase. It was the 50th consecutive month of year-over-year increases, said RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio.

Foreclosure prevention programs, legislation and other processing delays are in effect capping monthly foreclosure activity — albeit at a historically high level that will likely continue for an extended period,” Saccacio said.

And the foreclosure pipeline is still increasing. Default notices and lis pendens — which mark the first stage of the foreclosure process — rose 3 percent in February from the month earlier, according to the report.

“The big foreclosure earthquake that we felt was really in 2007, 2008, but we’re continuing to see aftershocks of that… waves of foreclosures continuing to hit,” Blomquist said.

The source of those new foreclosure waves has shifted away from subprime mortgages and toward Alt-A loans, many of which are adjustable-rate mortgages taken out as late as 2007 and which are set to recast after five years, he added.

Foreclosure prevention programs can only do so much to help.

“Not everyone facing foreclosure is going to be modified out,” Blomquist said, referring to the Obama administration’s Home Affordable Mortgage Program, which some say has been met with limited success in modifying loans for underwater homeowners.

“No matter what the government does, it’s going to be an artificial, temporary solution,” he said. “It’s going to take the market recovering. Until that happens, you’re not going to have a true end to the foreclosure problem.”
Realty Trac February 2010 National Data FINAL