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Rising number of foreclosures emptying homes

BOSTON — About 18.9 million homes across the country stood empty during the second quarter as surging foreclosures helped push ownership to the lowest level in a decade.

The number of vacant properties — including foreclosures, residences for sale and vacation homes — rose from 18.6 million in the year-earlier quarter, a Census Bureau report said Tuesday. The ownership rate, meaning households that own their own residence, was 66.9 percent, the lowest since 1999.

Lenders are accelerating foreclosures as borrowers fall behind in mortgage payments after the worst housing crash since the Great Depression. A record 269,962 homes were seized in the second quarter, according to RealtyTrac. Foreclosures probably will top 1 million this year, the Irvine, Calif., data company said in a July 15 report.

"There are a lot of people losing their homes and either moving in with family or renting places to live," said Patrick Newport, an economist with IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass. "Foreclosures are still going up."

Foreclosures are included in a part of the Census Bureau report that also tracks vacant properties under renovation or tied up in legal proceedings. There were 3.7 million such empty homes in the second quarter, up from 3.5 million in the year-earlier period, the report said.

Florida ranked third-highest in foreclosure filings behind Nevada and Arizona, based on the second-quarter data and the first six months of the year.

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

More than 3 percent of Florida homeowners, or roughly one out of every 32, have received foreclosure filings sometime this year. The number of bank repossessions in the Tampa Bay area in June jumped 43 percent compared with a year ago.

A record 4.6 percent of U.S. mortgages were in foreclosure in the first three months of 2010, according to a May 19 report by the Mortgage Bankers Association. The combined share of foreclosures and home loan delinquencies was 14 percent, or about one in every seven U.S. mortgages.

Demand for homes has slumped since the April expiration of a government tax credit for buyers. The rate of new home sales last month was the second lowest on record, behind May, the Commerce Department reported Monday. Sales of previously owned homes fell 5.1 percent in June, the National Association of Realtors said last week.

The tax benefit, worth as much as $8,000, spurred a 4.9 percent rise in sales last year, according to the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors.

Information from Times files was used in this report.

Home price index rises

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values increased 4.6 percent from May 2009, the biggest year-over-year gain since August 2006, the group said Tuesday. A retreat in demand since the April 30 contract-signing deadline to be eligible for an incentive worth up to $8,000 signals home prices will slacken in coming months. Thirteen of the 20 cities in the S&P/Case-Shiller index showed a year-over-year increase, led by an 18 percent gain in San Francisco and a 12 percent increase in San Diego. Tampa home prices dropped 1.47 percent in the index.

Rising number of foreclosures emptying homes 07/27/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 9:58pm]
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