Number of homes facing foreclosure rose in July

Associated Press Modified: August 9, 2012 at 8:45 am •  Published: August 8, 2012
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — More U.S. homes started on the foreclosure path in July, as lenders tackled a backlog of mortgages gone unpaid even as they pulled back on home repossessions.

The number of homes that received an initial notice of default — the first step in the foreclosure process — increased 6 percent in July compared to the same month last year, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

Filings of initial default notices have increased on an annual basis for three months in a row.

The trend comes as banks work to make up for time lost last year as the mortgage-lending industry grappled with allegations that it had processed foreclosures without verifying documents.

The nation's biggest mortgage lenders reached a $25 billion settlement in February with state officials. That cleared the way for banks to address their backlog of unpaid mortgages.

On average, 104,000 homes have entered the foreclosure process each month going back to May. That's well below the 178,000 per-month average in 2009, the year with the highest monthly average, RealtyTrac said.

The increase in homes entering the foreclosure process raises the possibility that more properties could end up being foreclosed upon in coming months. But of late, banks have been dialing back home repossessions and increasingly allowing the borrower to sell the home in a short sale. That's when the bank agrees to accept less than what the seller owes on the mortgage.

Banks took back 21 percent fewer homes last month than in July last year, RealtyTrac said. Repossessions were down 1 percent from June. They've been down on an annual basis every month going back nearly two years.

"Lenders are much less likely now than they were even a year ago or two years ago to repossess a property after they've started the foreclosure process," said Daren Blomquist, a vice president at RealtyTrac.

Completing the foreclosure process can potentially open banks up to liability if they're accused of improper procedures. And short sales, on average, sell for $25,000 more than a bank-owned property, Blomquist said.



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