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Florida Bankers say Foreclosure Hike May be Positive Sign

The number of home foreclosures continues to soar in Florida.  Nearly every major city in the state is seeing more foreclosures than a year ago, according to the latest Realty Trak report.  But Tom Flanigan reports Florida’s bankers see opportunity amidst the gloomy figures.

Realty Trac calls itself the “leading online marketplace of foreclosure properties.”  As such, it closely monitors the nation’s housing market and releases regular reports.  Just out is the Realty Trac midyear report and the picture it paints is not a pretty one, particularly for Florida.  That report shows tenof the top twenty metro foreclosure rates during the first half of the year were in California.  Florida had four of its big cities in the top twenty metro foreclosure list.  In fact, all fourteen of the Sunshine State’s metropolitan areas fell within the top-one hundred foreclosure locations.  And, with the exception of Fort Myers and Daytona Beach, which saw a small drop in foreclosures so far this year, the numbers were up everywhere else in Florida.  Orlando foreclosures up by forty-four percent.  Forty-seven percent in Tampa-St. Pete.  Tallahassee up almost a hundred-thirty percent.  Melbourne-Titusville a stunning one-hundred-thirty four percent increase.  Anthony DeMarco, executive vice president for government relations with the Florida Bankers Association, says no one should be surprised that Florida remains a hotbed of foreclosure activity.

“You have the economy and unemployment that’s still up there and that leads to foreclosures.”

But DeMarco also points out that some, if not many of the foreclosures counted in this report may have already been in the pipeline for quite awhile.

“With the robo-signing issue that was out there about eighteen months ago, banks did a self-imposed moratorium and went through and checked all the foreclosures either in the system or coming in the system.  That held back some.”

The net effect, DeMarco says, is somewhat the same as a dam breaking on a flood-swollen river.

“You have government programs where the bank willingly works with the government to try to keep people in their homes.  What will happen with that, a new program comes out and the new foreclosure process basically stops to work with the government once again on these programs.  All of these issues combined have led to resurgence in foreclosures.”

DeMarco notes the numbers may stay high awhile longer as the state’s overworked and underfunded court system struggles to deal with the foreclosure backlog.  But where there is pain, DeMarco says there’s also promise.

“There’s an opportunity there to pick up a new home if you’re a first-time homebuyer or you’re looking for investment properties to pick up a home – a piece of property – and live there.”

And if few new homes are now being built in Florida, DeMarco says struggling contractors can pick up jobs sprucing up those properties.

“I don’t know anybody who’s moved into a home and hasn’t done one or two things to try and fix up the home and that will lead to helping the economy in the state as a whole.”

But DeMarco says that’s just a short-term gain.  The real turnaround, he says, will come as more Florida foreclosures get through the process pipeline.

“Those states that have a quicker foreclosure process are already seeing property values starting to rise.  That’s just a sign that if we can get through this faster, it will help everybody that has property nearby and the economy in general.”

Meaning the latest jump in the number of Florida foreclosures could mean, ironically, that the worst may be almost behind us.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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