The Real Deal Miami

Florida foreclosures rise again

By Alexander Britell | September 16, 2010 12:00AM

A foreclosure backlog that was only compounded by foreclosure prevention efforts last year is still clogging Florida’s court system, and it could take until the first quarter of 2011 to clear out the courts, according to RealtyTrac.

Florida foreclosures account for 17 percent of the total number in the United States. While the number of actions in the state actually declined when compared to the same period in 2009, there were 56,877 properties statewide receiving a foreclosure filing last month.

That represents a 10 percent increase from the previous month, although it also marks a 9 percent decrease from August 2009.

Two Florida metropolitan areas saw foreclosures rates among the top 10 in the United States; at third was the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area, with one in every 104 houses receiving a foreclosure filing, and the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach metro area was number five, with one of every 111 housing units named in a foreclosure action.

There was a slight, 2 percent increase last month in the number of lis pendens, the initial default notice that marks the beginning of the foreclosure process.

“The 2 percent increase in default notices month-over-month in Florida…I wouldn’t read too much into it,” said Daren Blomquist, spokesperson for RealtyTrac. “The 2 percent increase is probably not enough to say there’s been any shift yet.”

Blomquist said it would be hard to judge how long it would take to clear out the massive foreclosure backlog in the state.

“We’re talking well into the first quarter of next year before we really have cleared out of the backlog that was created in 2009 of foreclosures,” he said.

There were nearly 42 percent fewer lis pendens filed in Florida when compared to the same period last year, however.

Palm Beach County ranked highest in the tri-county area with a foreclosure filing rate of one in every 106 housing units, compared to 1 in every 115 in Miami-Dade County and 1 in 109 in Broward County.

Palm Beach County saw an increase in the middle stage of foreclosure — properties that have already started the process now being pushed to subsequent stages of foreclosure, Blomquist said.

There were 2,144 REO filings in Miami-Dade County in August, with 1,764 in Broward County and 509 in Palm Beach county, for a total of 4,417 such properties in the tri-county area.

The number of filings at all stages of foreclosure increased from 17,337 in July 2010 to 21,927 in August. There were 23,213 total filings in Aug. 2009.

Part of the reason for the backlog statewide could be Florida’s status as a “judicial foreclosure” state, meaning that foreclosure cases have to go before a judge.

The number of foreclosure filings can vary from month to month is not likely due to an increase in the number of homeowners in foreclosure — rather, it reflects the different paces at which Florida counties work through their backlogs.

A pilot program launched in several Florida counties has been employing retired judges to work foreclosure-only courts, aiming to make something of a dent in the seemingly interminable foreclosure jam.

The last few months have seen a jump in the year-over-year numbers of real estate-owned properties, Blomquist said. This is due in some part to the fact that foreclosure prevention efforts added to the foreclosure backlog, he said. Banks and other lenders have been clearing out properties and increasing the number of their foreclosures.

Sarabeth Sanders conducted the interviews for this story.