U.S. foreclosure filings jumped 57 percent and bank repossessions more than doubled in March from a year earlier as adjustable mortgages increased and more owners gave up their homes to lenders.
More than 234,000 properties were in some stage of foreclosure, or one in every 538 U.S. households, Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac Inc., a seller of default data, said today in a statement. Nevada, California and Florida had the highest foreclosure rates. Filings rose 5 percent from February.
About $460 billion of adjustable-rate loans are scheduled to reset this year, according to New York-based analysts at Citigroup Inc. Auction notices rose 32 percent from a year ago, a sign that more defaulting homeowners are “simply walking away and deeding their properties back to the foreclosing lender” rather than letting the home be auctioned, RealtyTrac Chief Executive Officer James Saccacio said in the statement.
“We’re not near the bottom of this at all,” said Kenneth Rosen, chairman of Rosen Real Estate Securities LLC, a hedge fund in Berkeley, California and chairman of the Fisher Center for Real Estate at the University of California at Berkeley. “The foreclosure process will accelerate throughout the year.”
About 2.5 million foreclosed properties will be on the market this year and in 2009, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. analysts led by Michelle Meyer said in an April 10 report. U.S. home price declines will probably double to a national average of 20 percent by next year, with lower values most likely in metropolitan areas in California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada, mortgage insurer PMI Group Inc. said last week in a report.
Borrowers who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth may be buffeted by increasing job losses in a “very substantial recession,” Rosen said. About 8.8 million borrowers had home mortgages that exceeded the value of their property, Moody’s Economy.com said last week.
“At least 2 million jobs will be lost because of this recession, so we’ll get a cumulative negative spiral,” Rosen said. “A normal recession is 10 months. We think this one may be twice as long.”
Bank seizures climbed 129 percent from a year earlier, according to RealtyTrac, which has a database of more than 1 million properties and monitors foreclosure filings including defaults notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions. March was the 27th consecutive month of year-on-year monthly foreclosure increases. In February, foreclosure filings rose 60 percent.