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U.S. Foreclosure Filings Surpass 300,000 for 11th Month in Row

February 11, 2010, 01:42 AM EST
More From Businessweek
By Dan Levy

Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. foreclosure filings rose 15 percent in January from a year earlier and exceeded 300,000 for the 11th consecutive month as modification programs failed to keep delinquent borrowers in their homes, RealtyTrac Inc. said.

A total of 315,716 properties received a notice of default, auction or bank seizure last month, or one in 409 households, the Irvine, California-based seller of default data said today in a statement. Filings fell 10 percent from December.

Bank seizures, also known as real-estate-owned or REOs, may rise to a record 3 million this year, RealtyTrac said last month. About 66,000 delinquent loans out of a targeted 4 million by 2012 were permanently modified as of Dec. 31 under the Obama administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program, according to the Treasury Department. About 787,000 mortgages are in trial programs that change loan terms, the Treasury said Jan. 19.

“It’s almost inevitable that modifications will fail,” Michelle Meyer, New York-based U.S. economist for Barclays Capital Inc., said in an interview. “Over the next several months, we should see REOs increase at an accelerated pace.”

Foreclosure filings also fell in January of last year from December, only to rise in subsequent months, RealtyTrac said.

“If history repeats itself we will see a surge in the numbers over the next few months as lenders foreclose on delinquent loans where neither the existing loan modification programs or the new short sale and deed-in-lieu of foreclosure alternatives works,” James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac’s chief executive officer, said in the statement.

Negative Equity

Unemployment and negative equity, where homeowners owe more than their properties are worth, are adding to the foreclosure total, said Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow.com. More than a fifth of U.S. homeowners had negative equity in the fourth quarter, the Seattle-based real estate data provider said yesterday in a report.

The jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 9.7 percent in January, and payrolls dropped by 20,000, the Labor Department said Feb. 5 in separate reports. About 8.4 million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December 2007, with more than 4 million cut since Obama took office in January 2009.

January’s total filings were down 12 percent from the July peak, according to RealtyTrac. Bank seizures climbed 31 percent from a year earlier, default notices rose 4 percent and scheduled auctions increased 15 percent.

Nevada, Arizona

Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate for the 37th straight month, with one in 95 households receiving a filing in January. Total filings in the state fell 18 percent from a year earlier to 11,854.

Arizona ranked second, with filings for one in 129 households. The rate for both California and Florida was one in 187 households, RealtyTrac said.

Utah, Idaho, Michigan, Illinois, Oregon and Georgia rounded out the 10 highest foreclosure rates.

California had the most filings with 71,817, down 6.4 percent from a year earlier. Florida followed with 47,069, up 15 percent, and Arizona was third at 21,048, up 43 percent. The three states accounted for 44 percent of the U.S. total.

Illinois was fourth with 18,120 filings, up 25 percent from January 2009. Michigan ranked fifth with 17,574, up 54 percent. Texas, Nevada, Georgia, Ohio and New Jersey completed the 10 states with the most filings, RealtyTrac said.

Filings increased 23 percent from a year earlier to 6,146 in New Jersey. They rose 34 percent to 2,218 in Connecticut, and jumped 31 percent to 4,569 in New York.

City Rates

Las Vegas had the highest foreclosure rate for cities with a population of more than 200,000. One in 82 households there got a filing, a 21 percent decrease from a year earlier.

Phoenix was second among the biggest cities at one in 102 households. Six California cities ranked third through eighth: Modesto, Stockton, Riverside-San Bernardino, Merced, Vallejo- Fairfield and Bakersfield, according to RealtyTrac.

Cape Coral-Fort Myers and Orlando-Kissimmee in Florida were ninth and 10th respectively, said RealtyTrac, which sells default data collected from more than 2,200 counties representing 90 percent of the U.S. population.

--With assistance from Timothy R. Homan in Washington. Editors: Kara Wetzel, Anne Pollak

To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Levy in San Francisco at +1-415-617-7077 or dlevy13@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kara Wetzel at +1-212-617-5735 or



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"Unexpectedly" is an understatement.

"The jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 9.7 percent in January, and payrolls dropped by 20,000, the Labor Department said Feb. 5 in separate reports. About 8.4 million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December 2007, with more than 4 million cut since Obama took office in January 2009."

How does the jobless rate fall to 9.7% when they lost 20,000 more jobs?
The numbers are usually "revised" upwards three months later, without all the fanfare.