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Mortgage loan foreclosures slowed by robo-signing scandal

It turns out that the robo-signing mess was not such a minor manner, a mere paperwork slip that can be easily corrected. The latest figures from RealtyTrac show that foreclosure activity dropped substantially in November, reaching the lowest level since November 2008.

Foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — were reported on 262,339 U.S. properties in November, down 21 percent from October and off 14 percent from a year ago.

Both the 21 percent month-over-month decrease and 14 percent year-over-year decrease in foreclosure activity were the highest drops recorded since RealtyTrac began publishing the U.S. Foreclosure Report in January 2005, according to the company.

“Foreclosure activity decreased dramatically in November, with fewer than 300,000 properties receiving a foreclosure notice for the first time since February 2009,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer at RealtyTrac. “While part of the decrease can be attributed to a seasonal drop of 7 to 10 percent that typically occurs in November, fallout from the foreclosure robo-signing controversy forced lenders and servicers to hit the pause button on many foreclosures while they scrambled to revamp their internal procedures and revise or resubmit questionable paperwork.”

Uncertain Future

The catch is what happens next. Seasonal declines are, well, seasonal. Reductions in foreclosure activity related to the robo-signing scandal may result in no more than temporary stumbles. Once robo-related delays taper-off or end, then monthly foreclosure numbers could again climb.

Alternatively, there is a minimum, implausible, very unlikely possibility that the paperwork system is so botched up that for various reasons lenders on a large scale will not be able to show they actually own huge numbers of mortgage notes and therefore have no standing to foreclose.

As an example, there is the reported case of Colorado homeowner Margaret Sadler. A court dismissed an effort to foreclose when the lender was unable to show it was the real party in interest. (See photo at top. Also see the Mortgage Servicing Fraud Forum.)

RealtyTrac also released the following data:

Foreclosure Activity by Type

A total of 78,955 U.S. properties received default notices (NOD, LIS) in November, a 21 percent decrease from the previous month and a 31 percent decrease from November 2009 — the 10th straight annual decrease in default notices. November’s default notices total was the lowest since July 2007.

Default notices in states that practice judicial foreclosures (called Lis Pendens filings) decreased 31 percent from the previous month and were down 43 percent from November 2009. Meanwhile non-judicial default notices (NOD) decreased 9 percent from the previous month and were down 12 percent from November 2009.

Foreclosure auctions (NTS, NFS) were scheduled for the first time on a total of 115,956 U.S. properties in November, a 16 percent decrease from the previous month and unchanged from November 2009. Scheduled judicial foreclosure auctions (NFS) decreased 34 percent from the previous month and were down 12 percent from November 2009, while scheduled non-judicial foreclosure auctions (NTS) decreased 7 percent from the previous month but increased 5 percent from November 2009. 


Lenders foreclosed on 67,428 U.S. properties in November, down 28 percent from the previous month and down 12 percent from November 2009. Bank repossessions (REOs) decreased month-over-month in 37 states and the District of Columbia. November’s REO total was the lowest since May 2009, but November’s numbers pushed the year-to-date 2010 REO total to more than 980,000 — already above the record year-end total for 2009.

Nevada, Utah, California post top state foreclosure rates
Despite a 20 percent monthly decrease in foreclosure activity, Nevada posted the nation’s highest state foreclosure rate for the 47th straight month. One in every 99 Nevada housing units received a foreclosure filing in November — nearly five times the national average.

Thanks in part to sharp monthly drops in foreclosure activity in Arizona, Florida, California and Michigan, Utah’s foreclosure rate leapfrogged to second highest among the states in November after being sixth highest the previous month. One in every 221 Utah housing units received a foreclosure notice during the month — more than twice the national average.

With one in every 233 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing in November, California posted the nation’s third highest foreclosure rate despite a nearly 14 percent decrease in foreclosure activity from the previous month and a 22 percent decrease in foreclosure activity from November 2009.

Other states with foreclosure rates ranking among the top 10 in November were Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Idaho, Illinois and Colorado.

10 states account for more than 70 percent of national total
California alone accounted for 22 percent of the national total in November, with 57,378 properties receiving a foreclosure filing during the month — the nation’s highest state total. Default notices in California, which is primarily a non-judicial foreclosure state, decreased 11 percent from the previous month, while scheduled auctions decreased 2 percent and bank repossessions decreased 40 percent.

With 32,938 properties receiving a foreclosure filing in November, Florida posted the second highest state total despite a 42 percent drop in foreclosure activity from the previous month. Default notices in Florida, which is a judicial foreclosure state, decreased 52 percent from the previous month, while scheduled auctions decreased 46 percent and bank repossessions decreased 20 percent.

With 15,311 properties receiving a foreclosure filing in November, Michigan posted the third highest state total despite a 21 percent drop in foreclosure activity from the previous month. Default notices in Michigan, which is primarily a non-judicial foreclosure state, decreased 4 percent from the previous month, while scheduled auctions decreased 20 percent and REOs decreased 35 percent.

Georgia posted the fourth highest state total, with 14,423 properties receiving a foreclosure filing, and Texas posted the fifth highest state total, with 13,369 properties receiving a foreclosure filing. Both states — which are primarily non-judicial foreclosure states with short foreclosure processes that do not require a public default notice separate from the published foreclosure auction notice — documented double-digit percentage increases in scheduled auctions from the previous month but also documented double-digit percentage decreases in bank repossessions from the previous month.

Other states with foreclosure activity totals among the nation’s 10 highest in November were Illinois (12,941), Nevada (11,371), Ohio (10,458), Arizona (10,384) and Pennsylvania (5,672).

Top 10 metro foreclosure rates in Nevada, California and Florida
With one in every 86 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing in November, the Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev., metro area maintained the nation’s highest foreclosure rate among metropolitan areas with a population of 200,000 or more. Las Vegas foreclosure activity decreased 19 percent from the previous month but was up 21 percent from November 2009.

Reno-Sparks, Nev., also posted a foreclosure rate in the top 10, at No. 8 with one in every 150 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing in November.

Seven California cities posted foreclosure rates that ranked in the top 10: Stockton at No. 2 with one in every 130 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing; Bakersfield at No. 3 (one in 133 housing units); Modesto at No. 4 (one in 135 housing units); Vallejo-Fairfield at No. 5 (one in 144 housing units); Merced at No. 6 (one in 147 housing units); Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario at No. 7 (one in 148 housing units); and Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville at No. 9 (one in 163 housing units).

Big monthly drops in foreclosure activity in many Florida metro areas resulted in only one metro area in the state with a foreclosure rate ranking among the top 10: Port St. Lucie at No. 10 with one in every 173 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing in November.

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Posted in: Foreclosures

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