Area foreclosure rate for November highest in 28 months
Dec 13, 2012 (Ocala Star-Banner - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The Ocala area had the dubious distinction in November of having the second highest foreclosure rate among metropolitan areas throughout the United States.
The rate was the highest it has been in the past 28 months, according to data from RealtyTrac, an online company that analyzes foreclosure trends.
One in every 199 Marion County homes during November had a foreclosure filing against it, leaving the county behind only the Florida metropolitan area of Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, which had one foreclosure for every 158 homes.
Marion County's November foreclosure rate was the fifth consecutive monthly increase and a 44 percent hike compared with November 2011.
Wayne Archer, director of the University of Florida's Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies, said it is difficult to say what is behind the November increase, but it could be due to an increase in bank foreclosures previously held up by the courts and the robo-signing scandal.
That scandal included false affidavits in thousands of foreclosure cases made by bank representatives during the past few years. When the problem came to light during the past two years, many banks froze foreclosure procedures until proper documents could be obtained.
Archer said the freeze is thawing and that the new foreclosure trend could be the result.
But, Archer said, the local foreclosure spike should be balanced with the recent good news for housing sales in which prices have consistently risen during the past several months, along with the growing number of homes being sold.
Despite the improving housing sales market, Archer predicts that the high number of foreclosures won't subside much any time soon.
Other Florida cities ranked in the top 10 for highest housing foreclosure rates in the country included:
-- Jacksonville, one in 253 units
-- Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, one in 260 units
-- Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice, one in 277 units
-- Port St. Lucie, one in 278 units
-- Gainesville, one in 283 units
All seven Florida metro areas in the top 10 posted annual increases in foreclosure activity.
The other three cities with top 10 metro foreclosure rates were in California:
-- Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, one in 248 units
-- Stockton, one in 265 units
-- Modesto, one in 270 units
Foreclosure filings include default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions.
Foreclosed properties often sell for less than conventional home sales, pushing down home prices. They also typically are not as well maintained, potentially creating blight in neighborhoods.
Foreclosures nationwide decreased 3 percent compared with October and were down 19 percent from November 2011. That was due in large part to big year-over-year drops in California, Georgia, Michigan, Texas and Arizona, RealtyTrac concluded.
Foreclosures increased from a year ago in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Nine states posted 12-month highs in foreclosure activity in November, including Florida, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and South Carolina.
Marion County's foreclosure rate was the highest since August 2010, when one of every 163 homes was in some form of the foreclosure process.
Judy Ray, president of the Ocala/Marion County Association of Realtors and owner of Legacy Realty and Associates in Belleview, said the area's foreclosures are linked to the community's unemployment rate. When people have no jobs or are under-employed, they can't make their mortgage payments, she said.
"There are people who can't find jobs, companies closing," Ray said. "I know people who haven't made a (mortgage payment) in two or three years."
Marion County's October unemployment rate was 11.8 percent, but some people think it is higher because many unemployed people accepted part-time work or jobs paying significantly less than what they earned before losing their jobs. Many also are no longer looking for work.
In addition, Ray thinks that following the problems with robo-signing, banks held off foreclosing, until now.
"There are limits for the banks. They put up with it, but that's changing," Ray said. "And you had to be five, six months behind before the banks even took notice."
As for the future, Ray said, "It's going to stay the same. They're not going to go away. I see more bank foreclosure filings."
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