The foreclosure net expanded last month in Tampa Bay as banks scheduled more houses for courthouse auctions.
The bay area is not alone.
In Florida, lenders notified 10,655 homeowners that their houses will be sold on the courthouse steps, an 11-month high. Of those, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area recorded 4,193; Tampa Bay, 1,119; Orlando-Kissimmee, 1,093; and Cape Coral-Fort Myers, 441, according to a RealtyTrac report released today.
The auction uptick might be good news, in a sense. The housing market cannot recover until the foreclosure backlog is cleared. Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James in St. Petersburg, said the increase is no surprise since the economy is treading water.
"These problems will be with us for a while," he said. "There's still a lot of people who are underwater on their mortgages."
Nationally, filing activity rose more than 7 percent last month, but represented a decrease of about 31 percent from October 2010. Statewide, scheduled auctions and new default notices sparked Florida's foreclosure activity to jump more than 37 percent from September to October.
Overall, the number of bay area properties in some phase of the foreclosure process — a default notice, scheduled auction or bank repossession — rose 33 percent in October, the report said.
Lenders delivered new notices to 2,147 bay area homeowners, second most in the state behind the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area with 4,762; Orlando-Kissimmee recorded 1,753.
Filings had dropped in eight of the last 10 months in the bay area. Last month's filings fell 59 percent from the bay area's peak of 9,294 filings in October 2010. Florida filings peaked at 59,514 in September 2010.
Earlier this year, experts had predicted that a second wave of foreclosures would hit Florida, following the collapse last fall of three huge law firms amid allegations of sloppy and fraudulent documentation, stalling thousands of cases. Now it appears lenders are clearing the backlog, but the numbers fluctuate monthly.
There is as much uncertainty surrounding the housing market as there is sunshine in Florida.
Attorney Chris Boss of Yesner & Boss said lenders and mortgage services are sending foreclosure work to many smaller law firms to prevent issues that plagued the megafirms. He isn't surprised by October's increase.
He added: "They're cleaning up cases and pushing new ones forward."
Mark Puente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.