Orlando foreclosures persist despite recovery signs

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel

By Mary Shanklin 

Published August 1, 2015


"We still see a lot of bank-owned properties," said Clermont real-estate broker Debbie Payne. "There are still a lot of homeowners who walked off, and you can't find them."

She cited a Clermont lakefront home that had been worth $2.4 million a few years ago, but the owners were incarcerated, and the bank was unable to serve them foreclosure papers. The house has been totally vandalized and is worth about $550,000, she added.

Andy Insua, who oversees mortgage banking for Fifth Third Bank throughout Florida, said that home prices for the Orlando area and performance of new home loans are "encouraging." But the Central Florida region was hit so hard during the downturn that recovery is protracted, he added.

"Big wounds take longer to heal," he said Thursday. "While there has been some marked improvement in the last three years, we still need more time to fully recover in this market."

Orlando isn't alone. Of the country's top 10 metropolitan areas for foreclosures, eight are in the Sunshine State: Tampa, second; Polk County, third; Jacksonville, fourth; Ocala, fifth; Miami, sixth. And trailing Orlando was Fort Walton Beach, 10th.

At one time, California dominated with the greatest number of foreclosures for any state. But Florida had almost double the foreclosure filings of the West Coast state from January through June.

RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist said the foreclosure filings have been dropping significantly in Florida for the last few years but "it came from such a high level that it's still worse in Florida than in any other state."

By the end of the year, he added, New Jersey will likely replace Florida as the country's foreclosure king.

In addition to its quantity of foreclosure activity in the courts, Florida also has one of the country's longest timelines to process the home repossessions. States with the longest foreclosure timelines were New Jersey, 1,206 days; Hawaii, 1,060 days; Montana, 1,028; New York, 1,000 days; and Florida, 989 days.

Payne said she doesn't look for the area's foreclosure morass to end anytime soon.

When her company, Re/Max Navigator, mails out marketing materials to homeowners in her area, about one in 30 goes to the bank that has title to the property.