May 15--New foreclosure cases are down across South Florida and the Sunshine State as the housing market continues to shed distressed mortgages.
From January through April, lenders filed 1,529 new cases in Palm Beach County, down 54 percent from a year earlier, according to a report Thursday from the RealtyTrac listing firm.
Over the same period, new cases fell 43 percent in Broward County and 34 percent statewide.
Even with fewer filings, Florida had the nation's highest foreclosure rate in April -- one in 400 homes. Florida has led the country for seven consecutive months, said Daren Blomquist, vice president for RealtyTrac.
Toxic mortgages during the housing boom led to the foreclosure crisis, but recent buyers are benefiting from lower prices and more reasonable loan terms, said Mike Larson, a housing analyst with Weiss Research in Jupiter.
"The crop of mortgages out there now is based on much sounder underwriting than those mortgages from 2004 and 2005," he said.
Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac monitors public records for three types of foreclosures: new cases, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions.
From January through April, 7501 Palm Beach County homeowners were in one of those stages of foreclosure, off 7 percent from the same period of 2013, the firm said.
Still, some lawyers say there are plenty more foreclosures to be filed.
They insist a Florida law designed to fast-track foreclosures is instead muddying the process. The law requires lenders to have all of their paperwork in order before they file -- a stipulation that has led to a temporary slowdown in new foreclosure complaints, attorneys say.
"It does raise the burden for the bank," said Joe Kohn, a South Florida foreclosure defense lawyer.
Peowers@tribune.com, 561-243-6529 or Twitter @paulowers
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