Foreclosures rise again; 84,000 more lose their homes

Legal News Line Nov. 13, 2008, 11:52am

IRVINE, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-Foreclosures in October rose 5 percent nationwide, a gain that is 25 percent higher than this month a year ago, according to comprehensive data released on Thursday.

Despite attention from Congress, the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and despite many financial institutions claiming to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, more than a quarter of a million new foreclosure filings were registered in October.

RealtyTrak, the largest national foreclosure database in the country, announced the increased foreclosure activity Thursday.

The report offered the sobering reality that the country's housing crisis remains in critical condition. October marked the 34th consecutive month that foreclosure activity had increased over the previous year.

More than 84,000 properties were repossessed in October, according to the data.

RealtyTrak Chief Executive Officer James Saccacio said the recent political action seeking to curb foreclosures lacks a coordinated effort that focuses on modifying troubled loans.

"While the intention behind this legislation - to prevent more foreclosures - is admirable, without a more integrated approach that includes significant loan modifications, the net affect may be merely delaying inevitable foreclosures," he said.

Proponents of the foreclosure freeze movement, an effort that began in California a year ago and won advocates from high ranking Democrats in Congress and FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair, have realized that temporarily stalling foreclosures has mostly served to delay foreclosures, rather than avoid them entirely. With banks still reluctant to significantly revise loans, foreclosures continue to rise.

In Massachusetts, which passed legislation limiting foreclosure activity for 90 days, foreclosures skyrocketed once the 90-day period passed.

Homeowners received more cause for concern on Wednesday when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced that the $700 billion Congressional bailout won't be used to purchase troubled home assets as originally intended.

When Congress approved the funds, it did so believing part of the money would be used to buy toxic mortgage-backed securities, so that the government could then modify the loan terms while investors did not absorb the losses. On Wednesday, Paulson said it was not the most effective way to use the funds.

But also on Wednesday, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steve Preston said the government may let more borrowers qualify for a program that replaces risky, expensive and escalating loans with more affordable ones.

The program, launched on Oct. 1 and funded with $300 billion is also on shaky ground, however. Many lenders have shied away from participating because they do not want to voluntarily reduce the value of these loans.

Saccacio said the statistics showed some signs of progress as certain states had a significant decrease in the number of foreclosures.

"Most notably in California," Saccacio said, "where overall foreclosure activity was down by double-digit percentage points for the second straight month in October, and where default filings were 44 percent below October 2007 levels."

Though California decreased by 18 percent in October, the state still posted more than 50,000 new foreclosure filings - the highest in the country - during the month, according to RealtyTrak. That is an increase of 13 percent from October 2007. Foreclosure filings in California exceeded 100,000 in August.

For every month over the past two years a higher percentage of Nevada residents have fallen into foreclosure status than any other state. One in every 74 housing units - six times the national average - received a foreclosure filing in October.

Arizona and Florida are also experiencing more foreclosures than other states.

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