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Florida led nation in 2012 foreclosure activity

Florida posted the highest foreclosure rate in the nation in 2012, eclipsing Nevada for the first time, according to RealtyTrac.

In Florida, 3.11 percent, or one in every 32 homes, received some sort of foreclosure filing last year, the California-based data firm said.

Much of the rising foreclosure activity represents loans that soured a long time ago, rather than a major new round of defaults.

Foreclosure activity in Florida rose 53.5 percent in 2012 from a year earlier, as lenders stepped up activity after a long hiatus during the robo-signing controversy. With the settlement last spring between 49 state attorneys general and five large banks, lenders now have clearer guidelines on how they can press foreclosures.

“With the Miami numbers we’re seeing the expected rise off the artificially low numbers in 2011 as lenders pushed through foreclosures delayed by questions surrounding proper foreclosure documents and procedures,” Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, said in an email.

While the rising number of bank-owned sales of homes creates a headwind for the housing market, the inventory of homes for sale has been so tight that those distressed sales haven’t proved, at least so far, to be the onerous “other shoe” that many had predicted.

The Miami Association of Realtors next week is expected to report the county posted record home sales for 2012, beating a record year in 2011. Median home and condo prices in Miami-Dade are posting consistent gains, instilling confidence that the housing recovery is on strong footing.

Realtors insist they don’t expect the continued, or even accelerated, flow of distressed properties into the market to derail that housing recovery in Florida.

In many cases, professional investors are in the wings to snap up distressed property as soon as it becomes available, making it tough for the average home buyer to get a shot at the properties.

“A lot of investors are buying at the courthouse,” said Liza E. Mendez, a broker and owner of Petro Realty International in Hialeah.

“Everyone talks about the shadow inventory,” said Francisco Angulo, a Coldwell Banker agent and regional coordinator to South America for the National Association of Realtors. “Well, there are shadow buyers to go with that shadow inventory.”

The surge in foreclosure activity in Florida came as half the states saw increases in foreclosure activity and half saw declines. Most of the increases occurred in “judicial” states, those that handle foreclosures in protracted court proceedings rather than the quicker administrative processes.

“2012 was the year of the judicial foreclosure, with foreclosure activity increasing from 2011 in 20 of the 26 states that primarily use the judicial process, and a judicial state — Florida — posting the nation’s highest state foreclosure rate for the first time since the housing crisis began,” Blomquist said.

Twenty percent of the nation’s foreclosure activity centered on Florida last year, with some 305,766 properties in some stage of foreclosure or owned by a bank. California ranked second with 14 percent of the total, followed by Illinois, which had 9 percent. Ohio and New York each had 5 percent.

Florida had eight of the 20 metropolitan areas with the highest foreclosure rate, including Miami at No. 5 in the nation; Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, at No. 6; and Orlando at No. 8, RealtyTrac reported.

Within Florida, Miami-Dade County ranked second only to Okeechobee County in foreclosure activity during 2012. Foreclosure activity in Miami-Dade was up 56 percent in 2012 to 44,284 foreclosure filings.

In tallying foreclosure filings, RealtyTrac includes default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, thus a single property will log multiple events over the course of a foreclosure proceeding.

Broward had 25,935 foreclosure filings of all sorts in 2012, marking a 26.4 percent increase from a year earlier, RealtyTrac data show.