story by Kim Souza
The local foreclosure markets in Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith metro areas continue to slow with fewer filings each month following a national trend.
Throughout the first half of 2014 there were 406 total foreclosure filings in Benton and Washington counties, down 62% from the same period last year. That rate of decrease was nearly three times the level reported for the U.S. housing market, according to Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac.
There were 613,874 U.S. properties with foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — in the first half of 2014, down 23% from the first half of 2013. The report also shows that 0.47% of all U.S. housing units (one in 214) had at least one foreclosure filing in the first six months of the year.
Foreclosure filings in Arkansas fell 42% from a year ago. In the Fort Smith metro area, Sebastian and Crawford counties reported 111 foreclosure filings from January through June of this year. The number of filings declined 57% from the same period in 2013.
RealtyTrac reports that June filing numbers were lowest since the housing bubble burst in 2006. In Benton County there were 44 new filings recorded in June, compared to 103 a year ago. Washington County reported 28 new foreclosure filings in June, down 56% from a year ago.
Sebastian County reported 44 new foreclosure filings in June, down 47% from a year ago. Crawford County had 7 new filings last month, compared to 23 filings in June 2013.
“Over the next six to nine months nationwide foreclosure numbers should start to flat line at consistently historically normal levels,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “There continue to be concerning trends in some states and local markets that clearly indicate those markets are not completely out of the woods when it comes to the lingering foreclosure problem left over from the housing bust.”
Arkansas is not one of those states. The Natural State ranks 42nd among the 50 states surveyed by RealtyTrac in terms of foreclosure activity.
The number of foreclosure listings in from Benton County to Sebastian County totaled 214 as of Wednesday (July 16), according to Jim Long, real estate agent with Crye-Leike in Bentonville. The distressed listings are a little higher compared to the 204 reported last month, but lower than the 322 listings of foreclosures in Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith metro area in December.
“While it’s important that any remaining foreclosure infection is addressed promptly to keep it from festering, foreclosures are no longer a widespread contagion threatening to derail the housing market’s return to full health,” Blomquist said.
More loan modifications also help to curb the number of foreclosure sales, according to Hope Now. The latest date available is from May which shows total loan modifications, short sales, deeds in lieu and workout plans outpaced foreclosure sales by a margin of almost four to one (approximately 151,600 solutions versus 39,700 foreclosure sales), according to Hope Now spokesman Brad Dwin.
In May, mortgage servicers completed 102,000 workout plans for homeowners. These are non-loan modification, non-foreclosure alternative that provide short-term relief for homeowners who continue to work on permanent options. Repayment plans and liquidation options are part of this category. Hope Now also reports completed foreclosure sales declined again in May by 4%, while foreclosure starts totaled 67,200 across the nation, up almost 4% from the the prior month.
At the end of the second quarter there were approximately 1.9 million mortgages that were 60 days or more delinquent, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Serious delinquencies have declined for three consecutive months.
Eric Selk, executive director for Hope Now, said there have been 7.05 million loan modifications made since 2007.
“We have noted the number of short term solutions in this month’s data as well. These non-permanent options are crucial to homeowners who may have a loan modification or other permanent course of action on the horizon. There are myriad options for homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages and the efforts of the industry remain strong. Housing challenges vary from state to state and city to city and mortgage servicers have many tools at their disposal to handle these challenges,” Selk added.