Orlando foreclosure filings jump in January

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel

By Mary Shanklin

Published January 20, 2012


Central Florida's new year started with a thud of foreclosures, with one analytics firm reporting court filings in Metro Orlando rising by one-third from December to January.

That increase for the four-county metro area exceeded increases for the state and nation as a whole, according to a report released today by the California-based real estate research firm RealtyTrac Inc.

The metropolitan area had 3,537 foreclosure-related filings during January, up 33 percent from the month before and a 54 percent increase from January 2011. Within the metro area, Osceola showed the largest proportional gain, with a 76 percent jump in filing activity from December to January.

The biggest increase in legal actions involved initial foreclosure notices being sent to delinquent homeowners, signaling that a greater share of bank-owned properties is likely to hit the market in coming months. Initial foreclosure notices in Metro Orlando jumped from 992 in December to 1,639 in January.

Orlando real estate broker Dean Asher, president-elect of the Florida Association of Realtors, said any increase reported by RealtyTrac may be indicative of seasonal shifts in consumer spending and in mortgage servicers pushing out backlogs of foreclosures. The association's economists and sales data portray a market that is recovering from, rather than floundering amid, a rush of distressed properties, he said.

"We're seeing a little bit of an uptick [in foreclosures] but not that much," said Asher, owner of Don Asher & Associates Inc. in Orlando. "In the major markets in Florida, we are getting four, five and even seven offers on straight real estate deals. ... Unemployment is down [and] everything we're seeing is very favorable moving forward in real time."

RealtyTrac reported that Florida's foreclosure filings increased during January, but at less than half the rate of Orlando's increases. National foreclosure activity increased less than 1 percent from December to January and, in a sharp deviation from Orlando's trend, the number of filings across the U.S. was down 19 percent from January 2011.

State attorneys general from across the country announced a settlement last week with five major mortgage companies, and their hope was that the agreement would lessen the number of foreclosures entering the pipeline. But RealtyTrac officials expect the opposite.

"The settlement sets forth clear guidelines for lenders and servicers to follow when foreclosing, which should allow them to push through some of the delayed foreclosures from last year," RealtyTrac Chief Executive Officer Brandon Moore said. "Other roadblocks to foreclosure are still in place at the state level, however, including legislation altering the foreclosure process and lawsuits against lenders."

The expectation is for uneven trends in local and regional foreclosure numbers as lenders work through additional legislative and legal roadblocks, Moore said.