Banks Tackling More Foreclosures

Written by
David Mully
Read Time: 3 minutes

The number of homes in foreclosure is on the rise but that doesn't mean more homeowners are falling into financial difficulty, according to figures released today by the foreclosure tracking firm RealtyTrac.

Nearly 1.5 million homes were in the foreclosure process during the first quarter of 2013, according to RealtyTrac, a 9 percent increase from the same period last year. However, company officials say that's due to banks tackling a backlog of delinquent properties and not from an increase in homeowners falling behind on their mortgage payments.

U.S. Foreclosure Inventor

Foreclosure settlement cited

"Delinquent loans that fell into a deep sleep after the robo-signing controversy in late 2010 are gradually coming out of hibernation following the finalization of the national mortgage settlement in April 2012," said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac vice president. "The settlement provided some closure regarding accepted foreclosure processing practices, and as a result lenders have been reviving more of these delinquent loans and pushing them into foreclosure over the past 12 months."

The National Foreclosure Settlement, reached by state attorneys general and the federal government with five major lenders, arose out of claims of improper foreclosure practices and established foreclosure guidelines the lenders agreed to follow, in addition to commitments to provide billions in mortgage relief for at-risk borrowers.

Total still nearly one-third below peak

Overall, the number of homes in the foreclosure process is still 32 percent below their peak of 2.2 million in December 2010, according to RealtyTrac's U.S. Foreclosure Inventory Analysis, released today.

The current figures were driven by a 59 percent annual increase of homes in the pre-foreclosure inventory, those that have been served a notice of default but not yet scheduled for a foreclosure auction. The number of homes scheduled for auction has actually declined by 25 percent since the first quarter of 2012, according to RealtyTrac, while the inventory of bank-owned properties is down by 3 percent over the same period.

An estimated 35 percent of homes in the foreclosure process but not yet repossessed by lenders were reported as vacant, apparently abandoned by their owners in anticipation of foreclosure.

Big jump in mega-mansion foreclosures

Over three-fifths of all homes in the foreclosure process had loan amounts of less than $200,000, while another 30 percent had loan values in the $200,000 to $400,000 range. At the same time, the biggest increase by far was among homes with mortgages in excess of $5 million, which shot up by 120 percent over the past year.

By contrast, the next -biggest increase was in the sub-$50,000 category, which saw a 60 percent increase in foreclosure inventory over the past year, while those in the $50,000-$300,000 categories saw increases of 30-40 percent. The smallest increases by far were in the $400,000-$5 million range, none of which exceeded 10 percent.

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