U.S. Home Seizures Rise 38% to Record as Banks Process Backlog

A record 269,962 U.S. homes were seized from delinquent owners in the second quarter as lenders set a pace to claim more than 1 million properties by the end of 2010, according to RealtyTrac Inc.

Home seizures climbed 38 percent from a year earlier and 5 percent from the first quarter, the Irvine, California-based data company said today in a statement. More than 1.65 million properties received a foreclosure filing, including notices of default, auction and bank repossession, in the first half. That was up 8 percent from the first six months of 2009.

“Foreclosures haven’t peaked yet,” Nicolas Retsinas, director of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a telephone interview. Unemployment suggests that bank repossessions may climb for another six to nine months, he said.

Waning consumer confidence and the jobless rate, which was 9.5 percent in June, are holding back a housing recovery. The expiration of a federal tax credit for homebuyers also cut demand, even as average borrowing costs for a 30-year fixed-rate loan set record lows. The rate was 4.57 percent last week, according to McLean, Virginia-based mortgage finance company Freddie Mac.

“It’s not interest rates that will get us out of this, but jobs,” Retsinas said. “New defaults seem to have stabilized, but there’s still a lot of volatility overall.”

One in 78 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing in the first half, and filings surpassed 300,000 for the 16th consecutive month in June, RealtyTrac said. A total of 529,633 homes were seized by lenders -- the last stage of the foreclosure process -- in the first half, said Daren Blomquist, the data firm’s marketing manager.

Clearing Backlog

Banks are trying to avert foreclosure in some cases by modifying loans or attempting short sales, where a property is sold for less than the amount owed. That’s pushing down the number of new default notices even as lenders “cleared out a backlog” and seized more homes, James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac’s chief executive officer, said in the statement.

The number of properties that got a filing from April through June totaled 895,521, a 4 percent drop from the previous quarter and little changed from a year earlier. Total filings for the year are forecast to exceed 3 million, according to the data company.

“While the foreclosure problem is being managed on the surface, a massive number of distressed properties and underwater loans continues to sit just below the surface, threatening the fragile stability of the housing market,” Saccachio said.

Nevada, Arizona

Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate, as one in 17 households received a filing in the first half. The number of properties that got a notice totaled 64,429, down 13 percent from the previous six months and 6 percent from a year earlier.

Arizona ranked second at one in 30 households and Florida was third at one in 32. Rounding out the 10 highest rates were California, Utah, Georgia, Michigan, Idaho, Illinois and Colorado.

California led in total filings as 340,740 properties got a notice, down 15 percent from the previous six months and almost 13 percent from a year earlier, according to RealtyTrac.

Florida was second with 277,073 properties, down 9 percent from the previous six months and up 3 percent from the first half of 2009. Arizona was third at 91,484, down almost 2 percent from the previous period and up by a similar proportion from a year earlier.

Other states among the 10 highest totals were Illinois at 85,223; Michigan at 78,509; Georgia at 71,949; Texas at 64,883; Nevada at 64,429; Ohio at 59,927; and New Jersey at 36,542.

RealtyTrac sells default data from more than 2,200 counties representing 90 percent of the U.S. population.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Levy in San Francisco at dlevy13@bloomberg.net.

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