Foreclosures Up Sharply

We are a tad late on this story on rising foreclosures, “U.S. Mortgage Foreclosure Filings Rise 90% in May,” which ran in yesterday’s Bloomberg, but then again, at least as of this hour, the Wall Street Journal has failed to take note of it.

Keep in mind that the source of the data, RealtyTrac, uses a methodology which leads them to report totals that are pretty certain to be higher than the actual level of activity. They count each major step in the foreclosure process as a foreclosure, plus they count each loan separately (note that some homes have more than one loan outstanding). But since they have keep their data on a consistent changes, relative changes should be fairly reliable. Note that the report not only found a large year-to-year increase, but more worrying, a sharp increase from April, which, so early in the selling season, is not a good sign.

From Bloomberg:

U.S. foreclosure filings surged 90 percent in May from a year earlier as more homeowners fell behind on their monthly mortgage payments, RealtyTrac Inc. said.

There were 176,137 notices of default, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions last month, led by California, Florida and Ohio, the Irvine, California-based seller of foreclosure data said in a report today. The median price for a U.S. home slid 1.8 percent the first three months of 2007 as the housing slump entered its second year, according to the National Association of Realtors. The filings rose 19 percent from April.

A jump in foreclosures at a time of year that traditionally is the busiest for home sales means the slide in prices probably isn’t over, said James Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. Typically, more than half of all home sales occur in the April to June period, according to Freddie Mac, the No. 2 mortgage buyer.

“Such strong activity in the midst of the typical spring buying season could foreshadow even higher foreclosure levels later in the year,” Saccacio said in the report. That will add “to the downward pressure on home prices in many areas.”

Ranked by the number of foreclosure filings, California topped the list, with 39,659 in May, and Florida was No. 2, with 21,704. Ohio was No. 3 for the third consecutive month. It had 13,214 filings, said the report. Rather than count the number of unique households in foreclosure, the study counts the number of foreclosure-related legal filings, which could result in some properties being double- or triple-counted.

Taking into account the number of homes, Nevada was the No. 1 state, with one filing for every 166 households. Colorado was second, with one filing for every 290 households, followed by California, Florida, Ohio, and Arizona.

Michigan ranked No. 8, with one foreclosure filing for every 448 households, Connecticut was No. 10 and Massachusetts was No. 11.

New Jersey was in the No. 15 slot, with one foreclosure filing for every 843 households, and New York ranked No. 30, with one foreclosure filing for every 1,818 households.

In the report, 43 regions reported an increase in foreclosure filings from a year ago, including the District of Columbia, and eight states had a decline.

Oregon saw a 50 percent drop from last year, the biggest decline in the study, followed by New Mexico, down 39 percent, Oklahoma, declining 34 percent and Texas, down 33 percent.

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