Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Foreclosures Hit 8-Year Low

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Foreclosures Hit 8-Year Low

Article excerpt

DISTRESSED PROPERTIES

Foreclosure activity sank to an eight-year low in the Sarasota- Manatee region in 2015, as escalating values and an improved economy helped more owners hold on to their homes.

Filings in Southwest Florida have plunged more than 70 percent from their recession-era highs, although they remain above historic norms.

The two-county area recorded 5,271 foreclosure filings last year, with one in every 76 homes -- or 1.31 percent -- in some form of distress, real estate researcher RealtyTrac Inc. reported Wednesday.

But that is down from the peak of 20,507 filings in 2009, and the lowest level since 2,072 were recorded prior to the financial crisis in 2007.

Still, many homeowners remain in trouble.

Sarasota-Manatee ranked 26th among the 214 largest U.S. metro areas for foreclosure filings, and Florida posted the second- highest foreclosure rate last year.

"Although foreclosure activity in the Sarasota market dropped 18 percent in 2015 from the previous year, similar to the national trends, the foreclosure rate in Sarasota is still in what we consider the danger zone, with more than 1 percent of housing units with a foreclosure filing during the year," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

"Most likely in 2016 we will continue to see

foreclosure activity decrease, and we would expect by the end of the year to see the foreclosure rate in Sarasota below that 1 percent threshold. The only concern we have is a pending Florida Supreme Court case involving statute of limitations when it comes to foreclosures. If the court rules in favor of banks, it could lead to another surge in foreclosure activity across the state in 2016, but we consider that a less likely scenario," he said.

Sarasota real estate attorney Evan Berlin says his firm has seen a "noticeable decline" in foreclosure activity.

"I don't know if it's a situation where fewer homeowners are struggling, necessarily," he said. …

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