Foreclosures soar in state, nation Report shows Warren saw slight decrease

Published 12:06 pm Thursday, January 13, 2011

The bleakest year in foreclosure crisis has only just begun.

Lenders are poised to take back more homes this year than any other since the U.S. housing meltdown began in 2006.

About 5 million borrowers are at least two months behind on their mortgages, and more will miss payments as they struggle with job losses and loans worth more than their home’s value, industry analysts forecast.

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“2011 is going to be the peak,” said Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac Inc. The firm predicts 1.2 million homes will be repossessed this year by lenders.

The outlook comes after banks repossessed more than 1 million homes in 2010, RealtyTrac said this morning. That marked the highest annual tally of properties lost to foreclosure on records dating to 2005.

Although Mississippi has avoided the crux of the national housing crisis, the number of properties targeted by foreclosure filings in 2010 jumped more than twofold from two years ago, the report said. The state had 1,024 foreclosure properties in December, an increase in foreclosure activity from earlier in the year.

Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac said 5,280 properties received some type of foreclosure filing throughout the year, ranging from an initial notice of default to outright seizure and sale by a lending institution. That was up 130 percent from 2008, but a slight drop of 2.3 percent from 2009.

One in every 240 housing units in Mississippi received some kind of notice last year, ranking the state 45th in the nation — and in another league entirely from much of the nation.

In Warren County, the report showed a drop in foreclosures in December to seven from eight in November, or one for every 3,067 housing units, ranking 23rd of 55 counties with data available.

Hinds County had the highest rate for the month with one in 166 housing units listed.

Across the U.S., one in 45 households received a foreclosure filing last year, or a record high of 2.9 million homes. That’s up 1.67 percent from 2009.

For December, 257,747 U.S. homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice. That was the lowest monthly total in 30 months. The number of notices fell 1.8 percent from November and 26.3 percent from December 2009, RealtyTrac said.

The pace slowed in the final two months of 2010 as banks reviewed their foreclosure processes after allegations surfaced in September that evictions were handled improperly. Under increased scrutiny by the government, lenders temporarily halted taking actions against borrowers severely behind on their payments.

However, most banks have since resumed their eviction processes, and the first quarter likely will show a rebound in foreclosure activity, Sharga said.

Foreclosures are expected to remain elevated through the year as homeowners contend with stubbornly high unemployment, tougher credit standards for refinancing and falling home values. Sharga said he expects prices to dip another 5 percent nationally before finally bottoming out. The decline will push more borrowers underwater on their mortgages. Already, about one in five homeowners with a mortgage owes more than the home is worth.

The pain likely will be the most acute in states that already have been hit hard. That includes former housing boom states Nevada, Arizona, Florida and California.