Foreclosures across the region, state and much of the nation are returning to their pre-crisis levels according to Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac. The data marketing firm reports local foreclosures are down significantly in Benton, Crawford, Sebastian and Washington counties since the pre-crisis 2006.
In Benton County there were 100 foreclosure filings in the first half of 2015, down 18% compared to 122 a year ago. Also, oreclosure filings remain a fraction of the 1,480 reported in the county at the market peak in 2009.
Washington County reported 102 new foreclosure filings between January and June of this year, up 9.6% from the 93 reported in the same period last year. Washington County foreclosures peaked at 1,277 in the first half of 2010.
In Sebastian County, RealtyTrac reports 64 new foreclosure filings in the first six months of this year, up from 51 filings a year ago. This market’s foreclosure activity topped out at 314 filings reported in the first half of 2010.
Crawford County foreclosure filings totaled just 26 for the first half of this year, lower than the 35 reported in the year-ago period. Foreclosure filings peaked at 197 in the first half of 2010.
On the national level a total of 304,439 U.S. properties started the foreclosure process in the first half of 2015, down 4% from a year ago and 18% below foreclosure starts in the first half of 2006 before the housing price bubble burst in August 2006.
First-half foreclosure starts 2015 were at their lowest level in any year since RealtyTrac began tracking in 2006 — a 10-year low, according to Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.
“U.S. foreclosure starts have not only returned to pre-housing crisis levels, they have fallen well below those pre-crisis levels and are still searching for a floor,” Blomquist said in the report. “Loans originated in the last five years continue to perform better than historic norms, with tighter lending standards and more cautious borrower behavior acting as important guardrails for the real estate boom of the past three years.”
One area examined by RealtyTrac was the foreclosure repossession activity which varies from county to county and state to state. RealtyTrac reported that bank repossessions across the nation are still 37% above their pre-crisis levels and several metro areas continue to work through backlogs.
Blomquist attributed the higher repossession activity to “less-disciplined loans originated during the last housing boom which account for the majority of distressed (property) that is still hanging over the housing market.” He said two-thirds of all loans in foreclosure were originated between 2004 and 2008.
“An increasing number of these failed bubble-era loans finally exited the foreclosure process in the first half of 2015, resulting in accelerating bank repossessions that are still well above pre-crisis levels along with record-long average foreclosure timelines for properties foreclosed in the second quarter,” he added.
Northwest Arkansas is among the metro areas experiencing a resurgence of repossession activity even through statewide repossessions are down 8% compared to last year. Benton County’s foreclosure repossessions rose 19% from the year-ago period. Washington County reported an 8.5% rise in repossessions this year over last. The Fort Smith metro area reported a decrease in repossessions falling 15.7% in Sebastian County and 25% lower in Crawford County compared to a year ago.
One of the main observations from agents in counties were foreclosure properties remain few and far between are the limited inventory levels, which are more limited because of the reduction in foreclosures as a whole.
Vickie Briolat, agent with Crye Leike Real Estate in Bentonville, said the local foreclosure market is limited in Benton and Washington counties. Laura Dyer, president of the Fort Smith Board of Realtors said foreclosure inventory in that market is scarce. Both agents said the scarcity of distressed properties helps prop up average prices in their respective markets.
Jim Long, an agent with Crye-Leike, said there are 183 foreclosure listings in the four counties, which a fraction of the 2,600 total listings in those areas. Local foreclosure listings peaked as high as 322 in December 2013.
RealtyTrac said the foreclosure time also hit new highs in the recent quarter. On average foreclosures took an average of 629 days from the first public notice to the final sale. This is the longest average time to foreclose since RealtyTrac began tracking this stat in the first quarter of 2007.
FORECLOSURE TRENDS (January through June)
FORT SMITH AREA