New foreclosures fall in 2010, but first full-year dip

since 2006 may be temporary

Article and Video Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post

By Kimberly Miller

Published January 16, 2011

 Watch VIDEO

Courtesy Channel 5

Fewer Palm Beach County home­owners entered foreclosure in 2010 than the previous year, the first annual decrease in filings since real estate began to tumble in 2006.

The year-end foreclosure data, released today by Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac, shows a 28 percent drop in initial foreclosure filings in Palm Beach County, from 28,284 in 2009 to 20,417 last year.

Statewide, initial filings dropped 32 percent. Analysts attribute at least some of the dip to fall's foreclosure moratorium. They predict an uptick early this year as stalled foreclosures restart, followed by ups and downs throughout 2011 as adjustable-rate mortgages taken out in 2006 reset to higher monthly payments.

The overall number of homes in foreclosure in 2010

keeps Florida at third place in the nation, behind Nevada and Arizona.

RealtyTrac measures initial foreclosure notices, notices of sale and bank repossessions.

Florida had 485,286 homes in one of the three stages of foreclosure in 2010 - 6 percent of all homes in the state - according to RealtyTrac.

In Palm Beach County, 43,438 homes were in some stage of foreclosure in 2010, which represents about 7 percent of all homes. The nationwide average was 2 percent.

"The trend in the last few months is that new filings have been down, but what is more important is the upward trend in the number of homes repossessed by the banks," said Brad Hunter, chief economist with MetroStudy in Palm Beach Gardens. "To me, 

that's an indicator of the kind of pressure we will see on home prices."

The number of bank repossessions jumped 50 percent in Florida last year compared with 2009, with 122,912 homes going back to the bank. In Palm Beach County, bank takeovers more than tripled, with 8,979 homes repossessed.

One of those homes was co-owned by Jeff Simpson, who was on the mortgage with his ex-wife.

The Palm Beach Gardens house entered foreclosure in 2009 and was set for sale Dec. 20. Although the bank requested that the sale be canceled, a judge denied the motion and the home was auctioned five days before Christmas.

While Simpson acknowledges some poor financial planning on his part, the bleak economy also cost him and his wife their jobs. He accepts that the bank has the right to take the home but says the process has been baffling.

Simpson's ex-wife is still living in the home, 23 days after it was sold.

"What's hard is the lack of communication about what is going on," he said. "What everything really means is never explained."

The Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller's Office released its foreclosure tally Wednesday. According to its report, 19,840 foreclosures were filed in 2010, with 12,385 homes sold at auction.

The clerk's report may differ from RealtyTrac because of when the California company records the data.

Nationwide, RealtyTrac says 2.8 million homes were in foreclosure in 2010, fewer than the 3 million analysts had predicted earlier in the year.

"Total properties re­ceiv­ing foreclosure filings would have easily exceeded 3 million in 2010 had it not been for the fourth-quarter drop, triggered primarily by the continuing controversy surrounding foreclosure documentation and procedures," said James Saccacio, the CEO of RealtyTrac. "Many of the foreclosure proceedings stopped in late 2010, which we estimate may be as high as a quarter-million, will likely be restarted and add to the numbers in early 2011."