Home Foreclosures Soar, Again

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Home foreclosures remained high again in August, as might have been expected given recent news on home prices and housing sales. According to RealtyTrac, foreclosure actions were reported on 338,836 properties in August, a 4% increase from the previous month but a 5% decrease from August 2009.

One in every 381 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing during the month. A total of 96,469 U.S. properties received default notices  in August, a 1% decrease from the previous month and a 30% decrease from August 2009 — the seventh straight month where default notices have decreased on a year-over-year basis. Default notices peaked in April 2009, when 142,064 were reported nationwide, RealtyTrac reported. The news, in other words, has a silver lining. Year-over-previous-year numbers have begun to show a substantial improvement.

Foreclosure auctions were scheduled for the first time on a total of 147,003 U.S. properties in August, a 9% increase from the previous month and a 2% increase from August 2009.

But, lenders foreclosed on 95,364 U.S. properties in August, the highest monthly total in the history of the report and about 2% higher than the previous peak of 93,777 bank repossession. in May 2010. August bank reposition activity increased 3%  from the previous month and was up 25% from August 2009 — the ninth straight month where bank repossessions have increased on a year-over-year basis.  Banks may be becoming more aggressive in taking over homes as they hope to clear inventory off their books. There are about 2 million homes in what are called the “shadow foreclosure” market. These are home that banks now own but have not put on the market. This inventory concerns housing experts because it represents another huge number of houses that could be put up for sale which could further push down prices.

“The trend lines of decreasing default notices and increasing bank repossessions converged in August, with virtually the same number of new default notices and bank repossessions for the month — a clear indication that the clogged foreclosure pipeline is being carefully managed on both ends by lenders and servicers,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac.

California, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, and Illinois still account for the bulk of homes in some form of foreclosure, and Florida accounted for nearly 17% . All of these states have high unemployment compared to the balance of the country, so it is unlikely that there depressed pockets will improve over the course of the next few years.

The talk of a “double dip” in housing appears more likely as each month passes.

Douglas A. McIntyre