South Florida sees nearly 53 percent spike in foreclosure filings
Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post
By Kimberly Miller
Published March 18, 2012
South Florida laid claim to the second-highest increase nationwide in foreclosure activity for a metropolitan area last month as banks got a "green light" to pursue cases from the $25 billion settlement with the state attorneys general, experts said.
Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties saw a 52.7 percent spike in total foreclosure filings in February compared with the same time in 2011, according to a report to be released today by Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac.
The Tampa area saw the highest increase nationwide with a jump of 64 percent.
Statewide, overall foreclosure filings, which include initial notices, notices of sale and repossessions, were 40 percent higher in February than the previous year.
RealtyTrac analysts and foreclosure defense attorneys attribute the increases to the Feb. 9 agreement with the nation's five largest banks that outlines foreclosure filing standards while also forgiving civil robo-signing complaints.
"The velocity of new foreclosures has doubled if not tripled since the settlement," said foreclosure defense attorney Roy Oppenheim. "It's like they've been given a green light to go ahead and prosecute."
Oppenheim said he had to remodel his Weston office to accommodate more attorneys to keep up with demand for foreclosure defense.
Although foreclosure activity was down 8 percent nationwide from February 2011, 21 states posted overall increases. That's the most states with annual increases since November 2010.
Bank repossessions - the final stage of foreclosure - showed some of the largest spikes in filings. In South Florida, repossessions jumped 121 percent compared with a year ago and 90 percent statewide, RealtyTrac reported.
"Keep in mind we are coming off very low levels a year ago," said RealtyTrac spokesman Daren Blomquist. "But it shows the foreclosure log jam is breaking up and that properties are not just starting the foreclosure process at a faster rate but finishing it also."
Blomquist said that while the worst of the nation's foreclosure crisis is history, there will be spurts of heightened activity following the bank settlement. The agreement was filed Monday in federal court and awaits a judge's approval before it can be finalized.
RealtyTrac CEO Brandon Moore said the settlement "will help pave the way to a properly functioning foreclosure process."
RealtyTrac estimates that 2.2 million homes will have foreclosure filings against them in 2012, up from 1.9 million last year, but lower than the 2.8 million in 2010.
"I think we'll see a steady set of waves of foreclosures coming through this year, but not one big massive swell," Blomquist said.
RealtyTrac reported lower new foreclosure filings in Palm Beach County than what was released by the clerk of courts last week. But the company's findings of a general increase statewide compared with 2011 did follow the clerk's report of a 58.5 percent jump in Palm Beach County's February filings from the previous year.