Florida Defies Housing Rebound as Foreclosures Soar

Florida’s foreclosure crisis just won’t end. More than six years after subprime lending and overbuilding led to the worst U.S. real estate slump, the state had the biggest increase in home seizures last year, and the highest foreclosure rate, RealtyTrac Inc. said.

One in every 32 Florida households received a notice of default, auction or repossession in 2012, more than double the average U.S. rate of one in 72, the Irvine, California-based data seller said today in a report. Home repossessions increased by 16,276 during the year to 84,456, the biggest gain nationwide. Adding to the state’s woes is a backlog of foreclosures caused by a required court review of each case.

“Florida has had the worst problem the whole time, the combination of speculation and a run-up in prices and a judicial timeline that makes foreclosure sales take much longer,” Herb Blecher, senior vice president at mortgage-data provider Lender Processing Services Inc., said in an interview. “Even though they’re progressing somewhat, there’s still a foreclosure bottleneck.”

Florida, one of four so-called sand states that had the biggest booms before crashing, is the last of the group including California, Nevada and Arizona to rebound. While the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index for 20 U.S. cities surged 4.3 percent in October from a year earlier, the Miami and Tampa metropolitan areas in Florida were laggards among the component members “and have not recovered much so far,” according to index chairman David Blitzer.

Miami, Tampa

Phoenix and San Francisco area values have both advanced more than 22 percent from their lows, San Diego is up 12 percent and Las Vegas rose more than 11 percent, all surpassing gains of

8.2 percent in Tampa and 9.5 percent in Miami, the best-performing Florida market, S&P/Case-Shiller data show. Both of those cities are still down by about half from their market peaks in 2006, according to the measure.

“Arizona dealt with their problems, whereas Florida really hasn’t come down from the elevated level of foreclosures,” Robert Tayon, New York-based vice president of securitized products research for Barclays Plc, said in a phone interview.

Lower-priced areas in northern Florida cities such as Jacksonville and Tallahassee are showing a “sluggish recovery” compared with vacation destinations on the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts in the south, said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors in Washington. Judicial supervision of repossessions is slowing Florida’s rebound, in contrast to California and Arizona, so-called non-judicial states, where lenders send notices to delinquent borrowers and record defaults at the county level without court intervention, Yun said.


It took an average 853 days in Florida to complete a foreclosure in the fourth quarter, the third-longest behind New York and New Jersey, RealtyTrac said in today’s report. The U.S. average rose to 414 days from 348 days a year earlier, the most since the data firm began tracking the metric in 2007. Texas had the shortest period at 113 days.

The judicial process makes Florida “unique” among the four sand states, and has resulted in a buildup of distressed property, Yun said in a phone interview. Almost 20 percent of outstanding Florida loans were more than 30 days delinquent or in foreclosure in November, the largest share of non-current mortgages in the nation, according to data provider Lender Processing Services.

Judicial States

Almost 12 percent of Florida loans were in foreclosure, also the biggest portion among U.S. states, Jacksonville, Florida-based LPS said Jan. 11.

Like Florida, six other judicial states ranked among the top 10 for non-current mortgages, with New Jersey second with almost 17 percent of its loans either delinquent or on properties already taken back by lenders; New York fifth at almost 14 percent; and Illinois, Maryland, Louisiana and Connecticut ranking seventh through 10th. The U.S. average in November was 10.6 percent, according to LPS.

Even with Florida’s top share of non-current mortgages, the number of those loans declined by 13 percent from a year earlier, outperforming other judicial states and pointing to an eventual resolution of the foreclosure crisis, LPS’s Blecher said.

High foreclosure totals have U.S. homebuilders, hedge funds and private-equity firms positioning themselves for the recovery. Florida, along with Texas, California and Las Vegas, presented “extremely high-margin opportunities” for land purchases in the fourth quarter, Lennar Corp. President Richard Beckwitt said during the Miami-based builder’s Jan. 15 earnings call.

Homebuilder Sentiment

Homebuilder sentiment is at the highest level since June 2006, fueled by conditions in the western and southern U.S., Barclays analyst Cooper Howes said in a note yesterday. Builders broke ground on more houses than forecast in December, capping the best year for the industry since 2008, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington.

Rising prices and a declining supply of distressed homes are primary reasons for the optimism, Tayon said.

Blackstone Group LP is buying foreclosures in Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Northern and Southern California; Miami, Orlando and Tampa, Florida -- where prices fell so far that they “overshot,” said David Roth, managing director at Blackstone overseeing single-family home rentals.

Government-run Fannie Mae, the largest holder of foreclosed houses with an inventory of 107,225 repossessed homes as of Sept. 30, plans to sell most of them one-by-one after a bulk sale of 2,500 properties last year. The U.S. is the biggest owner of Florida foreclosures with 23,405, an increase of 50 percent over its total in 2011, according to RealtyTrac.

Bank Inventory

Florida’s bank-owned inventory at Dec. 31 was 83,697, up

6.8 percent from 2011. It had the highest share of foreclosure supply compared with other states for the U.S., Bank of America Corp. and Well Fargo & Co., and the second-highest portion for JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Ally Financial Inc., according to RealtyTrac.

Nationwide, the number of unique U.S. properties that received a foreclosure filing last year fell 3 percent to more than 1.83 million from 1.9 million in 2011, and decreased 36 percent from 2.9 million in the 2010 peak year. About 1.39 percent of households got at least one filing, down from 1.45 percent and 2.3 percent, RealtyTrac said.

Florida led with the most properties in some stage of mortgage distress at 305,766, or 20 percent of the U.S. total. California followed at 212,172, or 14 percent; Illinois was third at 135,858, or 9 percent; and Ohio was fourth at 76,015, or 5 percent.

Vacation Destination

In Naples on Florida’s gulf coast, an established vacation destination for decades, median prices last year rose 17 percent to $204,000, said Brenda Fioretti, residential agent at Prudential Florida Realty and former president of the Naples Area Board of Realtors. It was the biggest annual gain since 2006, one of the bright spots for the state in 2012.

“Naples is unique because investors are attracted to our second homes,” Fioretti said in an interview. “We’ve always been a high-priced area and don’t have much of a starter home inventory. Back in 2004 and 2005, people were buying everything they could. They thought they’d just turn right around and sell, and then they couldn’t get rid of them.”