Florida's foreclosure purge is still near record levels, but in an encouraging sign, the number of new defaults continues to fall, according to a RealtyTrac analysis released today.
Overall, the number of Florida properties in some phase of the foreclosure process — a default notice, scheduled auction or bank repossession — is flat from last month and down about 9 percent compared with a year ago. Nationally, foreclosures were up 4 percent from a month ago, but down 10 percent compared with a year ago, RealtyTrac said.
One in every 171 Florida housing units received a foreclosure filing in July, the third-highest rate in the country behind Nevada and Arizona. However, the number of initial notices that a lawsuit is being filed because of a mortgage default have dropped substantially, down 41 percent from a year ago and down 6 percent compared with last month.
Much of the activity appears to be migrating toward the tail end of the process: bank repossessions.
Banks took back 10,801 properties statewide last month, down from a big push in June but up nearly 60 percent from year-ago levels, RealtyTrac reports.
That mirrors a national trend. Banks repossessed 92,858 U.S. properties in July, the second-highest monthly total since RealtyTrac began tracking activity in April 2005. The peak month nationally was May, when banks repossessed 93,777 properties.
Like in Florida, the number of new default notices is shrinking, down for the sixth straight month.
In the Tampa Bay area, one out of every 219 homes was in the foreclosure cycle last month, a bit better than the state average.
Numbers varied widely between counties. In Pinellas County, foreclosure filings in July plummeted nearly 32 percent in just one month and were down 24 percent from a year ago. In contrast, Hillsborough County filings were up 6 percent from June but down 3 percent from a year ago.
Among other area counties, Pasco foreclosure filings were down 5 percent from a month ago and down 10 percent from a year ago while Hernando filings were up 3 percent from last month, down 4 percent from last year.
Tampa real estate attorney Kristopher Fernandez doesn't dispute there may have been some easing in new filings, but he doesn't see it. In fact, he's convinced the bay area won't be moving beyond its foreclosure crisis anytime soon.
He continues to receive calls from out-of-town clients with troubled investment properties here and former Tampa Bay residents who relocated for work and are now getting foreclosure notices. Plus, he's anticipating another round of adjustable rate mortgages resetting to higher rates, pushing defaults even higher.
"My gut feeling," Fernandez said, "is I see another three or four years before things really start slowing down some."