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National foreclosure rates rise to ‘highest quarterly total we've ever seen'

forecloselogo_optBY JOE TYRRELL

Resisting calls to provide more leeway to borrowers, banks sharply increased foreclosure filings in the first three months of the year.

The latest data from RealtyTrac showed 932,234 properties – one in every 138 American housing units – were hit with default notices, scheduled auctions or bank repossessions during the three months ending in March.

The numbers are up 7 percent from the previous quarter, and 16 percent higher than a year ago, according to the Irvine, Calif., company. Besides being higher, the latest activity is "more tilted toward the final stage of foreclosure," said James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac's chief executive officer.

The 257,944 repossessions are "the highest quarterly total we've ever seen," he said. The figure means the United States is on pace for more than 1 million bank repossessions this year, he said.

In Saccacio's view, that indicates, "lenders are starting to make a dent in the backlog of distressed inventory that has built up over the past year as foreclosure prevention programs and processing delays slowed down the normal foreclosure timeline."

Indeed, the repossessions exceeded the 231,000 household reported by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to have completed mortgage modifications under its foreclosure prevention program.

About 1.2 million borrowers have applied to the program since it was launched in March 2009, but about 158,000 have dropped up.

Testifying before the House Financial Services Committee this week, to executives of JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo challenged the idea of reducing mortgage balances for struggling homeowners.

"Principal forgiveness is not an across-the-board solution," said Mike Heid, co-president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

Ten states, primarily in the West and South, have accounted for 70 percent of foreclosure activity, according to RealtyTrak. Nevada, an epicenter of the pre-bust housing bubble, continued to have the highest foreclosure rate. One in every 33 Nevada properties received a foreclosure filing during the quarter.

In terms of raw numbers, California accounted for almost a quarter of the foreclosure filings in the quarter, although its rate drifted downward. Relatively unpopulated Utah saw a 75 percent increase, to 10,756.

New Jersey has avoided the worst of the housing problems, although the situation varies from county to county.

Overall, the firm has listed Union, Atlantic and Passaic as the most troubled counties. In new filings, Union led with 535, including 151 in Elizabeth, while Ocean County was second with 511. RealtyTrac listed New Jersey with a low foreclosure rate, one in 586 properties. The firm's raw numbers looked worse, with 63,885 filings for about 2.5 million households, but some can cover the same property.

Joe Tyrrell may be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Comments (2)
2 Thursday, 23 September 2010 13:09
What is the actually rate of forecloser?
1 Monday, 19 April 2010 12:29
Felix Fernando
I don't get the concept of "principal forgiveness". So if my house drops in value, I owe less that amount? It's not like the banks made us owe more when our homes skyrocketed in value. Hey Obama, can my investments work that way? If my portfolio drops in value, I get a refund check? Hilarious.

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