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Fewer Tampa Bay homeowners in foreclosure and late on mortgages

As more Tampa Bay borrowers regain equity in their homes, foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies in the four-county area have dropped to their lowest level in a decade.

In March, just 1.6 percent of all bay area homes were in some stage of foreclosure compared to 2.4 percent in the same month a year earlier, the property information service CoreLogic reported Tuesday.

Tampa Bay homeowners who were seriously delinquent on their mortgage payments — at least 90 days late — also declined, from 4.7 percent a year ago to 3.2 percent this March.

Nationwide, "dropping delinquency and foreclosure rates reflect the beneficial impact of stringent (loan) underwriting standards as well as better fundamentals such as higher employment, household formation and home price gains," said Frank Martell, CoreLogic's president and CEO.

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CoreLogic does not give foreclosure figures for individual counties. Data from the Pinellas and Hillsborough clerk's offices, however, reflect the dramatic decrease in bay area foreclosure filings in the past few years.

In March, lenders began foreclosing on 202 Pinellas homeowners. That compares to 1,420 foreclosure starts in the same month of 2009 during the worst period of the housing crash and 781 in March 2013 as the market was beginning to turn around.

In Hillsborough, there were 219 new foreclosure filings in March compared to 10 times that number — 2,199 — in March 2009

Now, thanks to rising prices, nearly 90 percent of borrowers in Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough and Hernando counties have equity in their homes, CoreLogic found. That means more owners might be willing to put their property on the market at a time when too many buyers are chasing too few homes.

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As equity increases and foreclosures decline, the housing industry can "shift its focus toward solving supply shortages and looming affordability crises in a number of markets," Martell said.

Nationally, less than 1 percent of homes were in foreclosure while 4.4 percent of borrowers were seriously delinquent on their mortgages. Among major metro areas, the New York-Newark, N.J. area had the highest foreclosure and delinquency rates while San Francisco and Denver had the lowest.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.