While foreclosure filings across the country dropped to a nine-year low in 2015, Arkansas was one of 24 states to see delinquent mortgages rise last year, according to Irvine, Calif.,-based RealtyTrac.
Arkansas reported 5,160 new foreclosure filings last year, up 29.9% from the 3,971 filings reported in 2014. However, filings are down 73% since the market peaked in 2010.
Benton and Washington counties in Northwest Arkansas and Sebastian County in the Fort Smith metro area each reported higher foreclosure rates in 2015 than in the prior year. That said, the filings are just a fraction of the plevels recorded in 2009 and 2010.
RealtyTrac reports 1.083 million U.S. properties had a foreclosure filing during 2015, down 3% from 2014 and 62% lower than the market peak in 2010. Less than 1% of the all homes in the country, or one in every 122 housing units coast to coast had at least one foreclosure filing during 2015. It’s the second consecutive year where the foreclosure rate has been below 1% nationally. On the local level the foreclosure rate last year ranged from lows of 0.27% in Sebastian County, 29% in Washington County to 0.59% in Benton County.
“In 2015 we saw a return to normal, healthy foreclosure activity in many markets even as banks continued to clean up some of the last vestiges of distress left over from the last housing crisis,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “The increase in bank repossessions that we saw for the year was evidence of this cleanup phase, which largely involves completing foreclosure on highly distressed, low value properties. … Local economic problems became a larger driver of foreclosure activity in 2015.”
He said examples of states bucking the downward trend include Atlantic City, N.J., which posted the nation’s highest metro foreclosure rate for the year. He also said states dependent on the energy sector, such as Texas and those involved in fracking such as Oklahoma and Arkansas, saw foreclosures rise in 2015.
Oklahoma had 11,388 filings, which increased 35.5% in 2015, but fell 35.7% from the state’s high set in 2010. Texas reported 52,893 foreclosure filings, up 15.7% from 2014 and 55% lower than in 2010.
In Benton County there were 558 foreclosure filings last year, that was one in every 168 households. Filings rose 34.7% year-over-year and include delinquent notices and trustee sales as well as bank repossessions.
Benton County is the second largest heavily populated county in the state with 93,873 households. It’s foreclosures peaked in 2009 with 3,945 homes in some phase of delinquency. In 2010 there were 3,925 foreclosure filings marking two of the weakest years for real estate that the county has seen.
Washington County ranks as the third largest in the state by population with 88,149 households posting 252 foreclosure filings in 2015. Filings rose 32.6% from 2014. Before 2015, foreclosures declined annually since peaking at 3,059 in 2010. Filings are down 91.76% from peak.
Since foreclosures have come way down from their peak, home prices overall have fully rebounded across most the zip codes in Northwest Arkansas. Even bank-owned homes are selling at higher prices today given the overall smaller inventory.
Blomquist said median home prices nationwide of bank-owned homes were still selling at 41% discount to other homes on the market. Agents in Northwest Arkansas said that is not case locally.
Tami Fagan, agent with Crye-Leike Real Estate in Fayetteville, said she has listed homes in East Springdale that were bought as foreclosures five years ago that sold in 2015 for nice profits. She said that’s a far cry from the days in 2008 when sellers might leave the closing table with a $12 profit in their pockets.
FORT SMITH METRO
Sebastian County is the fourth most populated in the state with 54,995 households in 2015. There were 146 foreclosure filings last year, rising 21.6% from 2014. Just as in Northwest Arkansas this market’s foreclosure peaked in 2010 after steadily rising from 2006. Filings are down 81% from 2010, falling 77.15% and 76.71% in 2009 and 2008, respectively.
In smaller Crawford County foreclosure filings decreased between 2015 and 2014. With 61,796 households, Crawford County reported 74 foreclosure filing last year down 13.955 from 86 in the prior year. Foreclosures in the county are down 83.7% from 2010 which was the market peak there as well.
Kevin King, broker with Weichert King Real Estate in Fort Smith, said foreclosures in the market are a small part of the overall sales. He said many times they are snapped up by investors as rental properties and haven’t had much impact on home prices in the Fort Smith area in 2015.
BY THE NUMBERS (Annual foreclosure filings)