Foreclosure activity in December 2012 was at its lowest level since April 2007, down 21 percent from 2011, according to the “Year-End 2012 Foreclosure Market Report” by RealtyTrac, real estate data and listing site.
That’s good news for the country as a whole, but foreclosures remain especially high in some areas. In Florida, Palm Bay has seen a 110 annual percent change in foreclosure activity, and Tampa’s rate rose 41 percent. Other problem areas include Raleigh, N.C. (62 percent), Omaha, Neb. (38 percent) and Rockford, Ill. (36 percent), per RealtyTrac.
Stacey Anfindsen, real estate agent and appraiser for Birch Appraisal Group in Cary, N.C., near Raleigh, says, “These [markets] were ‘ground zero’ for people buying houses who should not have been buying houses,” during the housing bubble.
Foreclosures remain high in many of these markets because of backlog of foreclosure cases, Anfindsen says.
This is especially true in states like New Mexico, known as a judicial foreclosure state, where a judge must sign off on a foreclosure prior to the property being taken back by the foreclosing lender. It adds extra time to the process, explains Michael Lizzi, associate broker with Allstar Realty in Rio Rancho, N.M.
“Another contributing factor is short sales,” Lizzi says. “These sales can run through multiple offers before... falling into a bucket for foreclosure.”
Still, there is hope on the horizon, as evidenced by a recent increase in housing starts, a stabilization of housing prices and a reduction in the unemployment rate.
“I believe the recent positive turn in the real estate market will give downtrodden homeowners who have lost so much equity in their homes over the past six years a ray of hope,” says Rhonda Duffy, owner and broker of Duffy Realty in Atlanta. “And rather than defaulting and walking away from their homes to foreclosure or bankruptcy, I think homeowners will regain some confidence and actually ride out the market.”