Florida foreclosure activity flat, but declines expected amid bank freezes

An REO property in Miami

Foreclosure activity remained largely flat on a year-over-year basis in Florida during the third quarter of 2010, with a total of 930,437 foreclosure filings in the state compared to the same period in 2009, according to data from RealtyTrac released today.

The firm’s data covers foreclosure filings including default notices, foreclosure auctions and repossessions by banks.

The report comes after news that major lenders, including Bank of America, GMAC and JPMorgan Chase had frozen their foreclosure activities, as allegations arose of document fraud such as forged signatures and so-called “robo-signed” foreclosure forms.

“Florida is the epicenter of this whole foreclosure documentation issue because it is a judicial foreclosure state and it is a state that’s been hit very hard,” said Daren Blomquist, a spokesperson for RealtyTrac. “Probably, Florida is where we expect to see the most impact from this controversy.”

Florida’s 157,026 foreclosure filings in the third quarter mark the second-highest total in the United States, after California.

The number of real estate-owned properties (that is, properties that were seized by banks) in South Florida jumped 15 percent over the previous-year period.

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An increase in the number of REOs tends to mean banks are beginning to catch up with the backlog. But Blomquist said the foreclosure freeze creates something of an interesting situation, as lenders were beginning to make headway on the significant foreclosure backlog in Florida.

“In Florida, that’s going to be put to a stop for, we believe, at least the fourth quarter, as we work through the documentation issue,” he said.

Nationwide, a record 102,134 homes were repossessed by banks last month.

For the fourth consecutive quarter, Florida had the third-highest foreclosure rate in America. One of every 56 housing units in Florida was in some level of foreclosure. Palm Beach County recorded one in every 35 units in foreclosure, the highest rate in South Florida. That rate was the second highest in all of Florida.

South Florida saw an increase in the number of filings, however, with a 9 percent increase in the total number of filings compared to the third quarter of 2009. Palm Beach County saw the most dramatic increase, with filings more than doubling to 18,413 from just over 9,000.

Additional reporting by Sarabeth Sanders