Sunday, January 21, 2018
Business

Foreclosure filings rise again in Florida and Tampa Bay area

Florida is once again the foreclosure capital of the country thanks in part to Tampa Bay, where filings jumped and piled behind tens of thousands of pending cases.

Florida posted the nation's highest foreclosure rate in November for the third month in a row, with foreclosure starts climbing 6 percent over the year before, data released today from RealtyTrac shows.

Tampa Bay foreclosure filings jumped 40 percent over November 2011, with more than 2,000 new foreclosures and 1,000 repossessions. And in the three circuit courts governing Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties, court data show that the number of open foreclosure cases dropped less than 1 percent between July and November, evidence of a backlog 70,000 cases deep.

The gloomy news comes as foreclosure starts nationwide dropped to an almost six-year low, spotlighting Florida's particularly marshy slog of mortgage defaults and repossessions.

Florida housed seven of the 10 highest metropolitan foreclosure rates last month, including Jacksonville, Miami, Sarasota and Gainesville, RealtyTrac data shows. Tampa Bay ranked No. 12, with one in 294 homes facing foreclosure.

Real estate experts warned for months that banks were holding back on filing some foreclosures. Lenders did not want to add to a market already saturated with distressed homes. But the number of sales and prices in the Tampa Bay area have picked up in recent months, and the inventory of homes for sale has been pinched.

Real estate agents said resolving these foreclosure cases is the only way local neighborhoods and the housing market at large can inch back toward stability. Selling and restoring the abandoned homes is critical, they said, before the housing recovery can truly take off.

We need "to put an end to it, to get back to a normal cycle of real estate," said Keller Williams agent Scott Samuels. "People still think the world is coming to an end, but it really isn't. … There are plenty of people who pay their bills, who are healthy and will do just fine."

Court delays and the "robo-signing" scandal over shoddy foreclosure filings have dragged out many cases in recent years. Foreclosures in Florida take an average of 858 days to complete, allowing some homeowners to live for years without making mortgage payments.

New cases are then jammed onto dockets behind tens of thousands of other cases, state court data shows. By the end of October, Tampa Bay's circuit courts were closing about 2,700 cases a month, data shows. Even if new foreclosures stopped cold, it would take judges more than two years to carve through the backlog.

Lawmakers gave $4 million statewide this year to help clear the backlog, and courts like Hillsborough used their share to pay for extra court workers and senior judges.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Herbert Baumann said case managers there are actively digging up stalled foreclosures, including some more than four years old, to push to resolution.

"We need to go case by case and give everyone a chance to come in and explain what's going on," Baumann said. "It's not something we're going to be able to dramatically reduce in a short period of time."

The foreclosure backlog has whittled down from the housing crisis' peak. And Tampa Bay's rising home prices give agents hope that a recovery is under way.

But Baumann said not to expect the foreclosure battles to clear up overnight.

"We look forward to the day when it returns to the kind of levels we saw in 2004," Baumann said. "I'm not sure that's imminent."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 893-8252 or [email protected]

Comments
Tampa Bay jobs chief Ed Peachey making top dollar

Tampa Bay jobs chief Ed Peachey making top dollar

For years, Edward Peachey has bragged about the number of jobless people he has helped find work.As president and CEO of CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, he’s in charge of the two main government agencies that provide training to the...
Published: 01/20/18
Sunday Conversation: Lightning VP Keith Harris strikes a chord for the Boys & Girls Clubs

Sunday Conversation: Lightning VP Keith Harris strikes a chord for the Boys & Girls Clubs

Keith Harris fondly looks back on some memorable days from his Tampa upbringing when he worked as a lifeguard at a pool next to a Boys & Girls Club. ¶Whenever it rained, he watched as the kids retreated to the safe haven of the club. They entered int...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Inspector General launches investigation into Tampa Bay’s local career centers

Inspector General launches investigation into Tampa Bay’s local career centers

The state has opened an investigation into CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, days after the Tampa Bay Times asked about whether the two regional job centers were inflating the number of people they had helped get hired. The agencies, ...
Published: 01/19/18
Tech firm TranferWise moves to Ybor City, illustrating a new chapter in Tampa’s business history

Tech firm TranferWise moves to Ybor City, illustrating a new chapter in Tampa’s business history

TAMPA — You could sketch an economic history of the city of Tampa — and maybe get a glimpse of its future — just by looking at the old J. Seidenberg & Co./Havana-American Cigar Factory.It opened in 1894, making it Ybor City’s second-oldest brick ciga...
Published: 01/19/18

Want to buy into an exchanged-traded bitcoin fund? You might have a long wait

NEW YORK — It may be a while, if ever, before investors can buy an exchange-traded fund made up of bitcoin and other digital currencies. Federal regulators have a long list of questions they want answered before they’ll approve a digital currency fun...
Published: 01/19/18
Child psychologist weighs in on mom who charges 5-year-old ‘rent’

Child psychologist weighs in on mom who charges 5-year-old ‘rent’

A Georgia mother has gone viral for charging her 5-year-old "rent." Yup — the kid pays up for food, water, cable and electric, too.Essense Evans described in a Facebook post how she handles her daughter’s allowance. The post, written on Saturday, was...
Published: 01/19/18

Addicted to your smartphone? Now there’s an app for that

Did you text? Sorry, I can’t see messages right now. Arianna Huffington locked my phone.The media tycoon turned wellness entrepreneur wants to keep you out of your phone, too, with a new app called Thrive. Its goal is to make it cool for a generation...
Published: 01/19/18
Proposed monument near St. Pete pier would honor Tony Jannus history-making flight

Proposed monument near St. Pete pier would honor Tony Jannus history-making flight

ST. PETERSBURG — Tony Jannus’s history-making flight in an early seaplane — simultaneously as ungainly and graceful as a pelican on the wing — is what Mayor Rick Kriseman calls an "under-told and under-appreciated" story, but a team of local history ...
Published: 01/19/18
Learn how bus rapid transit (and rail) could work in Tampa Bay

Learn how bus rapid transit (and rail) could work in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — The newest hope for transportation in the Tampa Bay area is a bus rapid transit system projected to cover the 41-miles separating St. Petersburg from Wesley Chapel and attract 4,500 new riders at a fraction of the cost of light rail....
Published: 01/19/18
Five things Tampa Bay needs to know about bus rapid transit

Five things Tampa Bay needs to know about bus rapid transit

ST. PETERSBURG — Transportation planners on Friday unveiled a new transit vision for Tampa Bay leaders on Friday morning: Bus rapid transit.Also known as BRT, it has arisen as the leading option in an ongoing study to find the best regional transit p...
Published: 01/19/18