Foreclosure Filings Rise in 75% of U.S. Cities on Unemployment

Foreclosure filings climbed in three-quarters of U.S. metropolitan areas in the first half as high unemployment left many homeowners unable to pay their mortgages, according to RealtyTrac Inc.

The number of properties receiving a filing more than doubled from a year earlier in Baltimore, Oklahoma City and Albuquerque, New Mexico, the mortgage-data company said today in a report. Notices of default, auction or bank seizure rose more than 50 percent in areas including Salt Lake City; Savannah, Georgia; and Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“Foreclosures are spreading out from areas that had been hardest hit,” Rick Sharga, senior vice president for marketing at Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac, said in a telephone interview. “We’re dealing with underlying economic weakness as opposed to unsustainable home prices and bad loans.”

Private employers added fewer jobs than economists projected in June and the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 9.5 percent as discouraged job seekers stopped looking for work, the Labor Department said July 2. The Commerce Department last month reduced its estimate for first-quarter economic growth after consumer spending grew less than previously forecast.

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance fell by 11,000 to 457,000 last week, while the number continuing to collect jobless benefits rose to 4.565 million in the week ended July 17, Labor Department figures showed today.

Delaying ‘Inevitable’

Continued weakness in employment and efforts to prevent foreclosure may “delay the inevitable” and weigh on home prices, RealtyTrac Chief Executive Officer James J. Saccacio said in a statement.

The company said 154 of 206 U.S. metro areas with populations of more than 200,000 had increases in households with filings from January through June.

Cities in Nevada, Florida, California and Arizona accounted for the 20 highest foreclosure rates. Nine of the top 10 metro areas had decreases in the total properties receiving filings, a sign that foreclosures may have peaked in the states hurt the most by the housing market’s collapse, RealtyTrac said.

Las Vegas had the highest rate as 6.6 percent of households received a notice, while filings dropped 8.8 percent, the data company said. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida, was second at 5 percent of households. Filings fell 30 percent from a year earlier.

California Filings

California cities ranked third through fifth. Modesto had 4.6 percent of households get a notice, Merced had 4.5 percent and Riverside-San Bernardino had 4.4 percent. Filings declined 14 percent in Modesto, 35 percent in Merced and 23 percent in Riverside-San Bernardino.

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach led in total properties with filings, at 94,466. That was up almost 11 percent from the first half of 2009. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana was second with 93,263, down 12 percent. Chicago-Naperville-Joliet was third with 78,022, up 23 percent, RealtyTrac said.

The company 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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