U.S. foreclosure filings more than double

July 25, 2008 5:50:53 PM PDT
The number of households facing the foreclosure process more than doubled in the second quarter compared to a year ago, according to data released Friday.

Nationwide, 739,714 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice during the quarter, or one in every 171 U.S. households, Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac Inc. said. That's up 121 percent from the second quarter of 2007.

Soft housing sales, declining home values, tighter lending standards and a sluggish U.S. economy have left strapped homeowners with few options to avoid foreclosure. Many can't find buyers or owe more than their home is worth and can't refinance into an affordable loan.

Foreclosure filings increased year-over-year in all but two states, North Dakota and Alabama.

Nevada, California, Arizona, and Florida continued to clock in the highest foreclosure rates. One in every 43 Nevada households received a filing during the quarter.

Cities in California and Florida accounted for 16 of the worst 20 metro foreclosure rates. Stockton, Calif., had the worst rate, with one in every 25 homes in the town receiving a foreclosure filing. That's nearly seven times the national average.

RealtyTrac monitors default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions. Banks took back more than 222,000 properties nationwide in the second quarter, the company said. Bank repossessions accounted for 30 percent of total foreclosure activity, up from 24 percent in the previous quarter.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com projects that by the end of next year, nearly 2.8 million U.S. households will either face foreclosure, turn over their homes to their lender or sell the properties for less than their mortgage's value.

The foreclosure report comes as the Senate is on track to pass a massive housing rescue bill by Saturday.

The bill is designed to keep an estimated 400,000 homeowners out of foreclosure and support troubled mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It's considered the most significant housing legislation in a generation.

The plan creates a new regulator and tighter controls on the government-sponsored mortgage firms and starts a permanent affordable housing program to be financed by their profits. That fund would be tapped to cover any government losses from the foreclosure rescue.

At a hearing Friday on Capitol Hill, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., called on the mortgage industry to delay or cancel foreclosures until the bill goes into effect Oct. 1 for those troubled borrowers who may qualify for the program.

Shares of Fannie and Freddie tumbled Friday. Investors remain jittery about the two government-sponsored mortgage companies' ability to raise cash to protect against losses. Fannie's stock fell 74 cents, or 6.2 percent, to $11.28. Freddie shares fell 62 cents, or 7 percent, to $8.19.


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