U.S. foreclosure filings fall to 15-year low, decline likely to continue during COVID-19 pandemic

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,608 views 

U.S. foreclosure filings fell to a 15-year low of 48,004 properties in February, and the numbers are expected to continue to fall as lenders suspend foreclosure proceedings in light of the coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, pandemic, according to a new foreclosures report.

ATTOM Data Solutions, curator of a nationwide property database and data service provider, released Wednesday (April 1) the February 2020 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report. The number of properties with foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions or bank repossessions — fell to the lowest number since ATTOM Data Solutions started tracking foreclosures in April 2005.

“Foreclosure activity across the United States hit new lows in February, yet another marker of the nation’s long housing boom,” said Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM Data Solutions. “However, as with just about anything connected to the housing market right now, the foreclosure situation is now totally in flux because of the ever-evolving coronavirus pandemic. Many lenders have suspended foreclosure proceedings, so the numbers will most likely continue to drop in the coming months. But after that, we may see an uptick in foreclosures as a result of dramatic economic impacts, such as more homeowners losing their jobs and falling behind on mortgage payments.”

Lender repossessions rose 1% to 10,469 U.S. properties in February, from January, as a result of completed foreclosures, according to the report. However, the repossessions fell 8% in February, from the same month in 2019, and this was the second consecutive annual decline in completed foreclosures. Following were the states with an annual decline in completed foreclosures in February: Florida (down 47%), New Jersey (down 37%), New York (down 18%), Texas (down 16%) and Maryland (down 13%).

Metro areas with a population of more than 200,000 with the greatest numbers of completed foreclosures included Chicago (614), Riverside, Calif., (529), New York (446), Los Angeles (368) and Philadelphia (328).

Nationwide, one in every 2,841 homes had a foreclosure filing in February. State with the highest foreclosure rates included New Jersey (one in every 1,457 homes), Illinois (one in every 1,507 homes), Delaware (one in every 1,627 homes), South Carolina (one in every 1,688 homes) and Maryland (one in every 1,713 homes).

Among the 220 metro areas with a population of at least 200,000, those with the highest foreclosure rates in February were Bakersfield, Calif., (one in every 948 homes) Atlantic City, N.J., (one in every 1,032 homes) Columbia, S.C., (one in every 1,042 homes) Rockford, Ill., (one in every 1,049 homes) and Fayetteville, N.C., (one in every 1,089 homes).

Metro areas with a population of more than 1 million with the worst foreclosure rates in February included Riverside, Calif., (one in every 1,109 homes) Chicago (one in every 1,314 homes), Philadelphia (one in every 1,391 homes), Cleveland (one in every 1,469 homes) and Baltimore (one in every 1,605 homes).

The number of properties on which lenders started the foreclosure process rose 3% to 27,058 U.S. properties in February, from January, the report showed. However, foreclosure starts fell 9% in February, from the same month in 2019, and this was the 13th consecutive month that the starts had an annual decline.

States with double-digit increases in foreclosure starts in February, from January, included Nevada (up 63%), Oregon (up 49%), Washington (up 47%), Texas (up 28%) and Michigan (up 20%).

Bucking the national trend were 31 states and Washington, D.C., with month-over-month decreases in foreclosure starts in February. They included Minnesota (down 38%), Tennessee (down 26%), Virginia (down 19%), New York (down 15%) and Ohio (down 13%).

In Arkansas, foreclosure filings fell 19.4% to a record low of 2,911 properties in the state in 2019, from 2018. The 2019 filings were down 85.3% from a peak of 19,757 in 2010.