Foreclosure activity usually spikes in the months before the holiday season, as banks want to get as many done before implementing holiday moratoria. Over the past three years there has been an average 8 percent monthly uptick in foreclosure auctions in October.
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"But the sheer magnitude of the increase this year demonstrates there is more than just a seasonal pattern at work," said RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist. "Distressed properties that have been in a holding pattern for years are finally being cleared for landing at the foreclosure auction."
Since the crisis began, there has been a distinct difference in foreclosure volumes between states that require a judge in the process and those that do not. Now the difference is fading. Foreclosure auctions in judicial states rose 21 percent month-to-month, while those in non-judicial states rose 27 percent.
"There is still strong demand from the large institutional investors at the foreclosure auction in some markets, but even in markets with decreasing demand at the foreclosure auction, banks can be confident in selling REO [repossessed] properties quickly and at a good price," Blomquist added. "That's because there is still strong demand from buyers, particularly in the lower price ranges, combined with a dearth of distressed homes listed for sale."
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Strong buyer demand at foreclosure auctions has helped stem the number of properties being repossessed by banks. October, again, was an anomaly, with lenders taking ownership of nearly 28 thousand properties, up 22 percent from September. Still, repossessions were down 26 percent from a year ago.
"We see far more opportunity to buy than we have capital," said Laurie Hawkes, president and COO of American Residential Properties, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based, single-family rental REIT in a September interview. "The fallacy is that the buying is over. It's not."
But it is slowing for large institutional investors, especially as home prices continue to rise. In some markets, however, where home prices have risen most in the recovery, banks would rather repossess the homes because they know they can sell them for a good price. As investors slow their buying, banks are getting more aggressive with long-delinquent borrowers.
Among the nation's top 20 metropolitan housing markets, Miami, Tampa, Baltimore, Riverside-San Bernardino and Chicago had the highest foreclosure rates, according to RealtyTrac. Investors have been moving to these markets from former foreclosure hot spots, like Phoenix and Las Vegas.
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Most of the loans going through the foreclosure process now have been delinquent for several years, but a particularly troubling sign was the number of newly started foreclosures in October: 56,452 homes. That is a 12 percent jump from September, though down 4 percent from a year ago.This was the largest monthly increase in foreclosure starts since August 2011.
"Many of the mediation programs, loan modification programs and even short sale programs have run their course. Distressed properties that could not be saved by those programs are being placed back on the foreclosure track," noted Blomquist.