RealtyTrac: Number of Foreclosures May Increase as Housing Market Recovers

Monday, 06 Jan 2014 06:51 AM

By Michael Kling

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As the housing market recovers, the number of foreclosures may increase.

That's because lenders will speed up the foreclosure process and move homes to the auction block as home prices rise and more buyers line up for sales.

"Lenders know there's now a much better chance they can get those properties sold, so they're moving to do that," Daren Blomquist at RealtyTrac, a real estate data firm, tells CNBC.

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After the collapse of the housing market, mortgage credit was scarce, prices were falling, and lenders were swamped by mortgage defaults. In many instances, foreclosure proceedings were stuck in a quagmire of legal problems, missing documents and unclear title chains.

Lenders often opted to let deadbeat borrowers remain in their homes rather than seize a home they might not be able to sell.

In some cities, lenders faced fines if they failed to maintain properties, Blomquist explains. "If the lender can't take on that property and maintain it properly, it may benefit them to allow the homeowner to live there and not foreclose until they're ready to."

But the foreclosure backlog is being cleared and lenders are more optimistic homes will sell.

The number of foreclosure auctions has increased steadily since last July in states with a judicial foreclosure process, where judges must approve foreclosures, he says.

Foreclosure filings are heading to auction faster in 19 states, including Oregon, Massachusetts, Utah, Connecticut, Delaware and New York

Investors and other all-cash buyers continue to drive the housing recovery, Blomquist states in a press release. "Lenders are taking advantage of this environment to unload more of their bank-owned inventory and in-foreclosure inventory at the foreclosure auction.

"But as the backlog of distressed inventory available dries up in many of the markets with the most efficient foreclosure processes — namely California, Arizona and Nevada, with Georgia not far behind — overall sales volume is declining and will continue to do so until more non-distressed sellers enter the market."

Foreclosures on properties valued at more than $5 million increased 61 percent in the first 10 months of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012, according to RealtyTrac.

Although relatively few in number compared with the overall market, luxury home foreclosures can mean huge losses for lenders.

The trend indicates that lenders are now better able to weather potential losses on the sales and more optimistic about getting better prices, RealtyTrac says.

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