Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Will More Homes Go on Sale?

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Will More Homes Go on Sale?

Article excerpt

FORECLOSURES RISE: But whether they will increase inventory is not known

Home defaults across Southwest Florida continued their winter increase in January, as delinquent borrowers brought new hope to a prolonged real estate shortage that many fear could stall the housing recovery.

Although foreclosure activity remains well below levels from a year ago, total filings in the Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties rose 5 percent from December, keeping pace with a statewide trend that has seen lenders ramp up their eviction efforts since early summer.

To be sure, the increased filings come as bad news for homeowners who have been fighting to keep their property. But in a strange twist, this new wave of defaults -- once a thorn for the economy -- is now welcomed by real estate agents clamoring for new listings to meet demand for spring's busy buying season.

"We're not seeing a huge flood of foreclosures, but a strong flow is beginning to hit the market, and the demand is there for these properties," said Peter Crowley, broker and co-owner of Re/Max Alliance Group in Sarasota and Manatee. "It's going to take some time before we actually see all of these."

There were 1,330 total foreclosure filings reported in January between Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties, according to data released Wednesday by RealtyTrac Inc. That was up from 1,268 defaults during December but still down nearly 18 percent from the same time last year.

Manatee led the way with a 68 percent jump in home defaults during January, with 463 total foreclosures recorded. Sarasota's 558 filings represented a 15 percent decline from December, while the 309 in Charlotte was a drop of 7 percent.

The area's cumulative increase comes one month after foreclosures posted their first annual increase since the housing crisis first gripped the region during 2009. Total filings were up 30 percent last year.

Most industry analysts expect foreclosures to keep rising as banks resume cases that were put on hold because of fraud issues in 2011. That slowed the entire process for two years. But the $25 billion mortgage settlement inked last spring cleared the way for banks to catch up on those backlogs.

Other boom-time buyers, who owe drastically more on a mortgage than their property now is worth, also are now seeking default as a strategic way out.

Foreclosure filings up

Nearly 43 percent of the foreclosures reported in Southwest Florida last month were lis pendens filings, when lenders first tell delinquent borrowers they intend to foreclose, RealtyTrac said. The rise in early stage filings are a sign of increased processing activity.

With it taking an average of three years to process foreclosures in Florida, judicial circuits across the state are swamped, said Sean Snaith, a University of Central Florida economist.

Inconsistent job growth has not helped matters, Snaith said. …

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