A Tale of Two Foreclosure Markets

Foreclosure trends were drastically different in the first quarter of 2012 depending on the local market.

In about half of the 212 metropolitan statistical areas with a population of more than 200,000, foreclosure activity increased from the previous quarter, according to the RealtyTrac Q1 2012 Metro Foreclosure Market Report.

Some of the biggest quarterly increases came in cities that aren’t the usual suspects when it comes to having a foreclosure problem. For instance, first quarter foreclosure activity in Pittsburgh increased 49 percent from the previous quarter — the biggest increase among the nation’s 50 largest metro areas. Indianapolis saw a 37 percent increase, Philadelphia a 30 percent increase, and New York City a 24 percent increase.

On the flip side, some of the markets that have borne the brunt of this foreclosure crisis posted sizable decreases in foreclosure activity from the previous quarter. First quarter foreclosure activity in Las Vegas dropped 26 percent from the previous quarter, while Detroit foreclosure activity dropped 20 percent and Los Angeles foreclosure activity fell 15 percent.

The trends among the nation’s 20 largest metro areas were evenly split down the middle, with 10 posting decreases from the previous quarter and 10 posting increases from the previous quarter. Only six of the 20 largest metro areas documented increasing foreclosure activity from the previous year, but several of those increases were impressive: Miami first quarter foreclosure activity increased 37 percent from the first quarter of 2011, while Philadelphia reported a 33 percent year-over-year increase and Tampa Bay reported a 24 percent year-over-year increase. Both Boston and Chicago registered annual increases of about 18 percent.

So why the divergent trends? It comes down to the type of foreclosure process used in each market.

Almost across the board, the metro areas with increasing foreclosure activity are in states where a judicial foreclosure process is used, meaning each foreclosure is a court case that is reviewed by a judge. The foreclosure process in those states slowed down dramatically last year because of more intense scrutiny from the courts. That resulted in a sharp drop-off in foreclosure activity in those markets last year. The first quarter numbers are showing that some of the delayed foreclosure activity in those judicial foreclosure states is finally being pushed through the pipeline.

Meanwhile the metro areas with decreasing foreclosure activity are almost without exception in states that utilize a non-judicial foreclosure process, which tends to be faster and was not as susceptible to getting slowed down last year because it does include oversight from the courts.

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