The number of American homeowners at risk of losing their homes continued to rise in February, despite temporary halts on foreclosures by major lenders such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. According to data released this morning by RealtyTrac of Irvine, Calif., foreclosure filings were received by 290,631 properties in February, an unexpected increase of 6% from the previous month. Year-over-year, it represents a 30% jump.
“The increase in foreclosure activity from January to February is somewhat surprising, given that many of the foreclosure prevention efforts and moratoria in place in January were extended through most of February as well,” noted James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac’s CEO. Additionally, both Fannie and Freddie announced this month that they would stop foreclosure sales on any homes eligible for the Obama administration’s new mortgage modification plan, allowing borrowers and banks more time to see whether or not a homeowner could afford his or her home under the new guidelines.
However, that plan may only provide limited relief, according to housing analysts. “While the recently-passed Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan should provide incremental relief to struggling borrowers, we do not believe it will prevent foreclosures of severely over-levered borrowers that purchased near the peak, and foreclosures are likely to remain elevated for the significant amount of problem loans related to investors and/or vacant units,” said Ivy Zelman of Zelman & Associates in a written report on today’s foreclosure numbers.
In terms of foreclosure hot spots, the same states and markets remain problematic. Nevada posted the highest foreclosure rate in the country, with 1 in 70 homes receiving a foreclosure filing in February. The remaining states in the top 10 as far as foreclosure rate include Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Oregon, and Ohio.
Given California’s ranking in terms of rate and total foreclosures, it is no surprise that California contributed six of the cities on RealtyTrac’s list of the 10 places with the highest foreclosure rates in February. Las Vegas occupied the top spot on that list, followed by Cape Coral-Ft. Myers, Fla.; Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Riverside-San Bernardino, Bakersfield (all California); Reno-Sparks, Nev.; Phoenix; and Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.
Alison Rice is senior editor, online, at BUILDER magazine.