Foreclosures rise could signal good news for housing

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SARASOTA - Foreclosure rates rose significantly in Sarasota and Manatee Counties last month. But while the jump in foreclosure numbers likely means the problem will last a while longer, it also means good news.

“I expect this, this is completely typical,” says real estate attorney Anne Weintraub. “We've seen this yo-yo effect” in foreclosure trends, with the latest going up. In Sarasota County, total foreclosures rose 34% in October from the month before, according to RealtyTrac. In Manatee County, foreclosures shot up 82%. (See table below)

"It’s a one-month trend, but those types of big increases are a little concerning," RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist told ABC News. But Weintraub says that one major factor has changed.

“Finally lenders have their act together,” she says.

No longer do big banks, and law firms that do their legal work, push through foreclosures even when they can't prove that they own the properties' mortgages, she says, at least not on a widespread scale. “What we had before was a business model, where there were rewards,” she says. “The more fraudulent documents you filed, the more BMWs you received at certain law firms.”

A $25-billion dollar settlement earlier this year between 5 big banks and 49 states to address foreclosure abuses might by itself have been a drop in the bucket. But banks have seemed more willing to work with distressed homeowners to do short sales, and even forgive some loans. “I have clients who've received letters from Chase and Bank of America specifically – so far – saying that their entire mortgage on their second home equity line is forgiven,” Weintraub says.

Those were second mortgages, in which people took out home equity loans during the housing boom, only to go bust when the market did. But, in some cases, Weintraub says, when that second loan goes away, suddenly people are not upside down on their mortgage any more.

And while we might not have heard the last of foreclosures, the stories should grow less grim.


Total Foreclosures

Manatee County:

*Aug 2012 - 270

*Sep 2012 - 353

*Oct 2012 - 644 (+82%)

Sarasota County:

*Aug 2012 - 522

*Sep 2012 - 551

*Oct 2012 - 740 (+34%)

Source: RealtyTrac