Foreclosure filings fell nationally in 2012, but not locally, research shows

Posted: January 18, 2013

Foreclosure filings fell 3 percent nationally in 2012 from 2011's levels and were 36 percent below their 2010 peak, RealtyTrac reported Thursday.

Filings did increase in New Jersey (up 55 percent) and Pennsylvania (up 28 percent) last year, the Irvine, Calif.-based real-estate information firm said, but were still below the levels of 2010, considered a record year for foreclosures nationwide.

States experiencing hefty increases in 2012, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, were those in which the courts handle foreclosures, said RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist.

"We expect to see continued increases in judicial-foreclosure states near the beginning of the year as lenders finish catching up with the backlogs in those states," Blomquist said. There will be another set of increases in some non-judicial states near the end of the year, he added, as "lenders adjust to the new laws and process some deferred foreclosures in those states."

Yet the additional foreclosures are unlikely to be the torrent many housing observers had predicted.

"There are more distressed [sales] to come, but I doubt it will result in more price declines," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics in West Chester.

Investor demand for such properties is verging on voracious, he said. Demand for nondistressed properties also continues to strengthen.

"There may be a lull in house-price gains early this year, but it will be temporary and modest," Zandi said Wednesday.

The nation's large lenders continue to reach settlements with the federal government stemming from complaints that they wrongfully foreclosed on borrowers who should have been allowed to remain in their homes.

On Wednesday, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley agreed to pay a combined $557 million to settle such complaints. The agreements were similar to those completed earlier in January by the Federal Reserve with 10 other lenders.

Combined, the 12 firms will pay more than $9 billion.

In the first 10 months of 2012, lower foreclosure inventory gave sellers the upper hand and helped median sale prices to increase in 25 states from the same period in 2011, RealtyTrac reported.

Median sale prices nationwide during the first 10 months of 2012 were, on average, 99 percent of median list prices.

This month, 10.9 million U.S. homeowners - representing 26 percent of all those with outstanding mortgages - owed at least 25 percent more on their homes than they are worth, RealtyTrac said.

That was down from 12.5 million homeowners, representing 28 percent of all those with mortgages, in January 2012.

Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472., or @alheavens at Twitter.

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