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Listing firm: Florida’s foreclosure rate tops nation

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Published:   |   Updated: April 11, 2013 at 12:27 AM
TAMPA -

Here’s a distinction that Florida can do without: No. 1 in foreclosure rate.

During the first three months of this year, one in every 104 homes in Florida received some type of foreclosure filing, from an initial foreclosure filing to a bank repossession form. That topped all other states, including second-place Nevada, according to foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac.

The Tampa Bay area also ranked high in RealtyTrac’s study, with the fifth-highest foreclosure rate among large metropolitan areas.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that lenders seem to be clearing out some of their inventory of foreclosed houses. Lenders are scheduling more foreclosure sales lately, perhaps because big investment firms are taking many of the distressed houses off their hands. That eventually could help shore up the real estate market.

“Maybe this is now the real estate market getting better,” said Judge Manuel Menendez, chief judge of the 13th Judicial Circuit in Tampa, which handles foreclosure cases.

According to RealtyTrac, 85,671 homes in Florida got some kind of foreclosure filing in the first three months of this year, out of a housing stock of about 8.9 million units. That’s up 17 percent from the first quarter of last year, when 73,344 homes in the Sunshine State got a foreclosure filing.

To be sure, those are not all new homeowners facing new foreclosures. RealtyTrac collects data throughout the foreclosure process, from the time homeowners get their first foreclosure notice to the point where they lose their homes.

A bit more than 36,000 Florida homes actually received first-time foreclosure notices in the first three months of this year.

In the Tampa Bay area, things were a little worse. Here, 13,491 homes were hit with some kind of foreclosure filing in the first three months of this year, or about one in every 100 homes. About 5,600 of those foreclosure filings were first-time foreclosure notices.

In fact, Florida was well represented among metropolitan areas with the highest foreclosure rates. Miami, Orlando and Ocala finished first through third among 209 metro areas across the nation, with Las Vegas in fourth place and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater in fifth.

Real estate professionals, lawyers and court officials had different opinions on the numbers Wednesday. Some say banks are more willing to work with delinquent homeowners. Others say banks want to unload foreclosed units more quickly.

For the most part, the number of Tampa Bay-area homeowners falling into foreclosure for the first time has been relatively flat over the past year.

That’s a sign that banks are more willing to work out deals with delinquent homeowners to keep them in their homes, said Jeff Hakanson, a Tampa lawyer who represents homeowners in foreclosure.

“My intuition and feeling based on my experience is they’re holding off on filing (foreclosures),” Hakanson said.

However, at the end of the foreclosure process – which often takes more than two years – banks filed more notices of foreclosure sale and they repossessed more homes.

For example, banks and lenders in the Tampa Bay area filed 3,800 foreclosure sale notices over the past three months, more than double the number they filed in the same period last year, RealtyTrac data show.

Stephen Dorsett, who owns a Tampa title insurance agency, said the nation’s foreclosure system stalled a couple of years ago, when judges discovered some lenders were using falsified foreclosure documents. Many of those foreclosures are finally reaching their conclusion in foreclosure sales at the courthouse, Dorsett said.

Also, the emergence of some big investment firms around Florida might be encouraging banks to take more foreclosed homes to auction, he said. Locally, the Blackstone Group has bought up hundreds of houses and intends to rent them out.


msasso@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7865

Twitter: @msasso

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