Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Completed Foreclosures Hit New High in February

Completed Foreclosures Hit New High in February

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Moratoria what? Completed foreclosures reached their highest point since the crisis got underway, rising 67 percent from January’s muted total.

In February, 121,756 homes were repossessed by banks and lenders, up from 72,694 in January and topping the previous high of 104,243 last September, according to Foreclosures.com.

Of course, many will argue that most of these foreclosures were initiated a long time ago, before lenders’ moratoria were in place, but the numbers paint a more troubling picture.

Even pre-foreclosure filings hit a new high, rising to 207,703 in February, up 24 percent from 166,860 in January and nine percent from 190,467 in December, the previous high.

“Despite the efforts to stem foreclosures by government and many banks, the hopeful signs of the last quarter of 2008 and January didn’t follow through in February,” said Foreclosures.com president Alexis McGee. “Many homeowners are in trouble and rising unemployment continues to threaten to intensify the problem.”

“Annualizing the first two months of this year, if foreclosures were to continue unabated, we could end up with another 1.2 million homes back in lenders’ hands by year-end.”

Completed foreclosures (REO) jumped 138 percent month-to-month in the Northeast, 90 percent in the Midwest, and 63 percent in the Southwest.

By state, completed foreclosures were up 260 percent in Michigan in January, 103 percent in Arizona, and 67 percent in California.

The only bright spot seems to be distressed sales booming in some of the harder-hit regions of the country.

“It looks like those same markets where the foreclosure mess began—including California, Florida, Arizona, and Nevada—are now seeing the market bottom and sales pick up again,” said McGee. “Adding to that, housing affordability hit its highest level since 1970 in January. This is the time to buy”

I don’t know if I agree with her on that last bit, but buyers do seem to be scooping up previously foreclosed properties at a rapid clip.

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