The latest data from RealtyTrac and CoreLogic makes it official. Driven by the still suffering economy, Foreclosures are marching northward from their traditional haunts in the recovering Sand States, invading markets that have seen relatively few foreclosures to date.
Even though nationally foreclosure activity fell 2 percent in February from the previous month and was down 8 percent from a year ago, RealtyTrac reported annual foreclosure activity increased in 21 states in February compared to only seven last September.
Judicial states, where a court order is required to foreclose, accounted for a lion's share of the growth in foreclosures. Hundreds of thousands of foreclosures were backlogged over the past year due to concerns about lenders' processing practices, in judicial states, which include New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Illinois.
"The foreclosure and mortgage settlement filed in court earlier this week will help pave the way to a properly functioning foreclosure process by providing a clear roadmap for necessary foreclosures," Moore continued. "That should result in more states posting annual increases in the coming months. Not surprisingly, many of the biggest annual increases in February were in states with the more bureaucratic judicial foreclosure process, which resulted in a larger backlog of foreclosures built up over the last 18 months in those states."
Ten of the nation's 20 largest metro areas by population documented year-over-year increases in foreclosure activity in February, led by the Florida cities of Tampa (64 percent increase) and Miami (53 percent increase).
The 10 metro areas with increases were all on the East Coast or in the Midwest, while most of the metro areas with year-over-year decreases in foreclosure activity were in the West, led by Seattle (59 percent decrease) and Phoenix (43 percent decrease).
The metro areas with the highest foreclosure rates among the 20 largest were Riverside-San Bernardino in California (one in 166 housing units), Atlanta (one in 244), Phoenix (one in 259), Miami (one in 264) and Chicago (one in 302).
CoreLogic reported today that in January approximately 1.4 million homes, or 3.3 percent of all homes with a mortgage, were in the foreclosure inventory compared to 1.5 million, or 3.6 percent, in January 2011 and 1.4 million, or 3.4 percent, in December 2011.
Nationally, the number of loans in the foreclosure inventory decreased by 145,000, or 9.5 percent in January 2012 compared to January 2011. The foreclosure inventory is the stock of homes in the foreclosure process. A property moves into the foreclosure inventory when the mortgage servicer places the property into the foreclosure process after serious delinquency is reached and remains there until the foreclosure is completed. The foreclosure inventory is measured only against homes with an outstanding mortgage, rather than against all homes. Nationwide, roughly one third of homeowners own their homes outright.
The share of borrowers nationally that were more than 90 days late on their mortgage payment, including homes in foreclosure and REO, fell to 7.2 percent in January 2012 from 7.8 percent in January 2011, but remained unchanged from December 2011.
"The pace of completed foreclosures is gradually increasing again, but the clearing ratio is falling as REO sales have slowed in the winter months. Judicial foreclosure states are continuing to process foreclosures more slowly than non-judicial foreclosure states," said Mark Fleming, chief economist with CoreLogic. "Non-judicial foreclosure states completed almost twice as many foreclosures per 1000 active loans as judicial foreclosure states in January."