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Florida, U.S. on track for record year of foreclosures

Talk about a painful housing recovery.

Even as foreclosure filings have slowed, the nation's still on track for a record 1 million home­owners to lose their homes this year as banks clear a backlog of problem properties.

For Floridians, there's more: The state outpaced Arizona in the most recent monthly data, becoming the second-worst foreclosure market in the country behind Nevada. More than 3 percent of Florida homeowners, or roughly one out of every 32, has received a foreclosure filing sometime this year. The number of bank repossessions in the Tampa Bay area in June jumped 43 percent compared with a year ago.

The sorry statistics are included in a wide-ranging midyear report Thursday from California real estate firm RealtyTrac and raise concerns that the housing market is still on shaky ground.

"The midyear numbers put us on pace (nationwide) to exceed 3 million properties with foreclosure filings by the end of the year, and more than 1 million bank repossessions," RealtyTrac chief executive James J. Saccacio said.

Saccacio called the second quarter "a tale of two trends." The pace of properties entering foreclosure slowed because of more aggressive attempts at short sales and loan modifications. At the same time, lenders cleared a huge backlog of distressed inventory resulting from failed loan modifications in 2009.

As a result, nationwide there were more than 1.9 million foreclosure filings — default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions — in the first half of the year. That's down 5 percent from the beginning of 2010 but up 8 percent from a year ago.

Florida ranked third-highest in foreclosures behind Nevada and Arizona, based on the second quarter data and the first six months of the year. For the month of June, however, Florida ranked second.

There were 277,073 filings in Florida in the first half of the year, up 3 percent compared with a year ago, but down 9 percent from the beginning of the year.

One out of every 170 Florida households received a foreclosure filing in June. With 2,638 filings in Hillsborough and 2,449 filings in Pinellas, the two ranked fifth and sixth highest, respectively, among Florida counties.

Particularly troubling are the number of bank repossessions, which hit another record high nationally in the second quarter.

Lenders took back 1,117 homes in the Tampa Bay area in June, up 26 percent from May and up 43 percent from a year ago.

St. Petersburg attorney Charles R. Gallagher III, who is representing borrowers in more than 300 active foreclosure litigations, doesn't see the surge of activity ending anytime soon.

He cites a couple of key reasons: only a small fraction of loan modification requests are being approved, let alone proving successful beyond the trial stage; and another wave of adjustable rate mortgages are resetting to higher rates within the next two years.

Lenders have made a dent in reducing the high inventory of foreclosed homes in the area, Gallagher said, but the process is painful and slow.

"We're through the absolute worst," he added, "but I think we have two more full years of this left (as) it progressively gets better."

Jeff Harrington can be reached at harrington@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8242.

Florida, U.S. on track for record year of foreclosures 07/15/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 15, 2010 11:18pm]
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