News Column

Florida Keeps Top Foreclosure Ranking

Nov. 15, 2012

Kimberly Miller


Florida maintained its leading spot nationally for foreclosure activity last month with a filing rate more than twice the national average.

It's the second month in a row the Sunshine State ranked first for foreclosures, a disheartening designation it hadn't held previous to September since 2005, according to the Irvine, Calif.-based company RealtyTrac, which measures foreclosures nationwide.

A RealtyTrac report released this morning shows that one in every 312 Florida homes received a foreclosure filing in October -- either an initial notice of foreclosure, auction notice or final bank takeover. Nationally, one in every 706 homes received a foreclosure filing last month.

Florida kept the top ranking even as its new foreclosure filings dipped 19 percent compared to last year. New filings were up 2 percent last month from September.

"The Florida overall numbers were still at a 12-month high," said RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist. "It's pretty much status quo. The upward trend is continuing, but the numbers may be starting to plateau."

Following Florida in the top five foreclosure rankings are Nevada, Illinois, California and Arizona.

In Palm Beach County, RealtyTrac measured 925 new foreclosures filed last month, a 3 percent drop from September but up 5 percent from last year. That number differs from what the Palm Beach County Clerk of Courts reported Wednesday, a 26 percent surge in new foreclosures in October from the previous month and an 8 percent increase from 2011.

According to the clerk's office, new Palm Beach County foreclosures stand at 13,057 for the year, topping new filings in all of 2011 by 903. RealtyTrac and the clerk's office sometimes differ on foreclosure data depending on when RealtyTrac collected the information.

"Our foreclosure caseload continues to grow, and shows no signs of slowing down," said Clerk Sharon Bock. "That we've already exceeded the number of new cases filed in all of 2011 is proof of that."

Palm Beach County ranked 16th in the state for foreclosure activity, according to RealtyTrac. St. Lucie County ranked first with one in every 80 homes receiving a foreclosure filing in October.

Michael Dickson, of sixth-ranked Manatee County on the west coast of Florida, has been in foreclosure since 2011 after being laid off from his job as a telecommunications contractor. He said he's worked with four mortgage services to try to save the house he and his family have lived in since 2005.

"I was accepted for a loan modification, or so I thought," Dickson said Wednesday. "After paying what they told me to for eight months, I called to get a permanent modification and they said 'Oh, we lost your paperwork.' "

Dickson said there is evidence of fraudulent robo-signing activity in his foreclosure documents.

"I have four assignments of mortgage and they are all just ridiculous," Dickson said.

To atone for alleged robo-signing and other foreclosure misdeeds, the nation's five largest banks signed a $25 billion settlement in February that is supposed to provide mortgage relief to homeowners and improve the foreclosure process.

Quarterly progress reports were due to a national oversight office Wednesday. Bank of America said Wednesday it has approved $15.8 billion in mortgage relief to 164,000 homeowners nationwide in the form of debt forgiveness, interest-rate reductions, short sales or other programs such as relocation assistance.

About 30,000 Bank of America customers have received principal reductions on their first lien mortgages that amounted to $4.75 billion in savings to homeowners. Florida data were unavailable Wednesday afternoon.

"First lien principal reductions are our highest priority as it's the one program that has a clear ability to prevent foreclosure and keep people in their homes," said Bank of America Senior Vice President Eric Telljohann.

Last month, lenders took back 7,301 Florida homes in the final stage of the foreclosure process. That was a 10 percent increase from September and about 2 percent more than October 2011.

Dickson, the Manatee homeowner, said he's hoping to avoid a bank repossession.

"I didn't buy this house to flip it. I didn't cause the economy to go bad so that I got tossed out of work," he said. "I have $149,300 invested in this house and I'm not just walking away from that."

Source: (c)2012 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services