Tampa Bay is still pumping out new foreclosures at a rapid pace, another sign that the housing recovery remains a work in progress.
Hillsborough and Pasco counties last month saw nearly twice as many foreclosure filings as July 2011, according to a RealtyTrac report released today.
Pinellas foreclosure filings last month also climbed, nearly 80 percent year-over-year.
Though foreclosure filings have sunk across the country, Florida remains a hot spot for delinquent mortgages and lost homes.
The state's foreclosure rate last month was third highest behind California and Arizona, with 25,000 properties statewide seeing a filing, the report states.
The filings, which include notices of default, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, each mark a step in the foreclosure process, lenders' last resort for homeowners unable to pay their mortgages.
But real-estate agents say the filings could hack away at banks' large backlog of distressed homes, opening up listings for wanting buyers and helping neighborhoods return to normal.
"It's just part of the process," said Steve Capen, a Keller Williams agent who specializes in short sales. "That 'shadow inventory' of pending foreclosures is out there, and it needs to be worked through the system."
Blocked by the robo-signing scandal or log jammed in court, banks have sat for years on swaths of properties tied to defaulted loans. That allowed some homeowners to skip months of mortgage payments while still avoiding eviction.
But agents said lenders are renewing their push to foreclose as buyers' demand heats up and strains the availability of listed homes.
In Pinellas and Hillsborough, the number of homes for sale dropped to about a three-month inventory, half the level of a healthy market, according to statistics from Pinellas and Greater Tampa Realtor groups.
"The banks are getting a little more aggressive as far as trying to push those foreclosures through a little bit quicker," said Tony Delgado, a real-estate agent with RE/MAX Bay to Bay. "As quickly as they come on the market, they're gone."
RealtyTrac is one of several agencies tracking foreclosures, and market watchers have questioned the group's calculations. But most agree that foreclosures remain a weight around the economy's neck.
"It's like there's a bucket, but there's no bottom on the bucket. No matter how many get concluded, there's more every month," St. Petersburg foreclosure defense attorney Matt Weidner said.
"We're in a vicious, endless cycle," he said. "More foreclosures are not the solution to the foreclosure crisis."
Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 893-8252 or [email protected]