Fewer Tampa Bay homes fell into foreclosure last month, but overall foreclosure activity grew even as the nation got a reprieve from embattled lenders.
Bay area homeowners receiving initial foreclosure notices dropped by 15.6 percent in October from the prior month. Lenders delivered notices to 3,725 homeowners, according to a RealtyTrac report released Thursday.
But overall activity, including auctions and bank repossessions, grew in Tampa Bay, especially in Hillsborough and Pasco counties. Local attorneys point to an infusion of cash to the court system over the summer that's speeding up cases.
Meanwhile, Florida still has the second-highest foreclosure rate in the nation, behind only Nevada. One in every 155 Florida homes received a foreclosure filing during October, 2.5 times the national average. Statewide, filings increased year-over-year for the second month following five consecutive monthly drops.
Nationally, foreclosure activity — bank repossessions, scheduled auctions and notices for defaults — dipped 4 percent last month, RealtyTrac reported. But the number of U.S. homes seized by lenders dropped 9 percent from September to October as several major lenders temporarily ceased most or all foreclosures amid allegations that thousands of documents were signed improperly. The decline was the biggest of the year, one RealtyTrac attributed to fallout from the robo-signing mess.
"The numbers probably would have been higher," said James J. Saccacio, head of the research firm.
Lenders such as Bank of America, Ally Financial's GMAC Mortgage and JPMorgan Chase & Co. suspended some or all of their foreclosure activity after the foreclosure documents mess erupted in late September.
Still, lenders are on pace to repossess more than 1 million homes this year. Some that had recently suspended action against borrowers severely behind on their payments plan to resume it — just at a slower pace in order to avoid previous flaws.
Matthew Weidner, a St. Petersburg lawyer who focuses on foreclosures, said the local decrease in initial filings may be partly attributed to more lenders working with homeowners to keep them in their houses.
But he's not celebrating yet.
"It's still a mess," he said. "It's not good or bad."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459.