Tampa Bay had the nation's third-highest percentage of homes in foreclosure in March, although fewer bay area borrowers were "seriously delinquent" on their loans.
Of bay area houses, condos and townhomes with mortgages, 4.2 percent were in some stage of foreclosure, a level exceeded only by Newark, N.J., and the Nassau-Suffolk area of New York, according to property information source CoreLogic.
Yet in the 12 months ended in March, banks repossessed nearly 600 fewer Tampa Bay homes than they did in the 12 months before that. And although the area's 8.2 percent delinquency rate is also among the nation's highest, the percentage of people 90 or more days late on their payments dipped slightly.
Nationwide, "foreclosures and serious delinquencies continue to drop as the home purchase market begins to end its eight-year slump," Anand Nallathambi, CoreLogic's president and CEO, said in a statement Tuesday. "Many states in the Northeast and Midwest, as well as Florida, still have elevated levels of distressed housing but they are making more rapid progress as of late."
The national delinquency rate — 3.9 percent — was the lowest since May 2008, though "the percentage of homeowners struggling to keep up is still well above the prerecession average of 1.9 percent," Nallathambi said.
As the Tampa Bay Times reported on Sunday, the number of pending foreclosure cases in the bay area has plunged since the peak of the crisis in June 2012.
In Hillsborough County, foreclosures dropped from 27,937 three years ago to 9,043 last month.
In Pinellas and Pasco, there were 10,705 active foreclosures as of March, compared with 28,806 three years ago.
The numbers have dropped enough that the Pinellas-Pasco court system is doing away with the separate foreclosure section that was created with state money in 2013 to help clear the huge logjam of cases.
"All cases are being reassigned back to the traditional civil section," Chief Judge J. Thomas McGrady said. "We think that by July 1, we'll be pretty close to where we were before the crisis in the number of foreclosure cases."
"You keep hearing about the next wave (of foreclosures)," he added, "but we just haven't seen it."
For the 12 months ended in March, Florida led the nation with 110,000 completed foreclosures — those in which the bank repossessed the house — followed by Michigan, Texas, Georgia and Ohio. Those five states accounted for almost half of all completed foreclosures nationally, CoreLogic reported.
Contact Susan Taylor Martin @firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.