TAMPA — Higher home prices in the Tampa Bay area may be encouraging lenders to sell off their masses of homes in foreclosure, new data from foreclosure marketplace RealtyTrac show.
Overall, Florida still led the nation in foreclosure rate in December, with one home in every 409 in some stage of foreclosure. That’s partly because of a technicality, though. Foreclosures in Florida go through the court system and take longer than they do in many other states, which hurts the Sunshine State in rankings.
Locally, the foreclosure numbers show a familiar pattern. Fewer people are falling into foreclosure in the Bay area, but banks also are scheduling more foreclosure sales and taking back more homes at the end of the foreclosure process.
For example, lenders filed 946 new foreclosure actions in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area in December. That’s down from 1,077 new foreclosure cases lenders in November, and it’s less than half the new cases filed in December 2012, when lenders filed 2,112.
Initial foreclosure filings may have fallen because of a new state law that requires banks to have better documentation that they actually own the mortgage note. Some banks seem to be having trouble finding those documents and are holding back on new foreclosures, said Charles Gallagher III, a St. Petersburg attorney who represents homeowners.
However, they seem more willing lately to force the sale of homes at foreclosure auctions. In December, lenders filed 1,671 foreclosure sale notices in the Tampa Bay area. That’s up from 1,306 notices of foreclosure sale in November and up from 1,122 a year ago.
In a news release, Daren Blomquist, a RealtyTrac vice president, said big investors are snapping up homes at foreclosure auctions, which has raised the value of homes in foreclosure by 10 percent nationwide.