Morning Coffee...The Finest Grounds

US foreclosure filings in February remained 6% above the level in 2009, despite dropping 2% from January, according to Realty Trac.

More than 308,000 homes – or one in every 418 – received a foreclosure filing in February, which includes default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions.

James Saccacio, CEO of RealtyTrac, said the 6% increase from last year was the smallest since January 2006, but it was the 50th consecutive month of yearly increases.

“This leveling of the foreclosure trend is not necessarily evidence that fewer homeowners are in distress and at risk for foreclosure, but rather that foreclosure prevention programs, legislation and other processing delays are in effect capping monthly foreclosure activity — albeit at a historically high level that will likely continue for an extended period,” Saccacio said.

Daren Blomquist, at RealtyTrac, said that the narrowing increases in foreclosures is not so much a sign that the market is recovering as the management of the foreclosure problem is succeeding to a certain extent.

Servicers participating in the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) have provided 116,000 permanent modifications, and 1m more are in HAMP trials. The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program is on the way in April to prevent more foreclosures, and the Obama Administration is even kicking around an idea to prohibit any foreclosure until the borrower is considered for a HAMP modification.

“In the foreclosure data, if we saw decreases for six months or more, that would be pretty solid evidence that it’s more than just a Band-aid, but a sign that there is more of a long-term trend going on,” Blomquist said.

But the trend since the summer of 2009 has been choppy. Foreclosures decreased from month to month in September, October and November before a 14% spike in December. Foreclosure activity then decreased in January and again in February.

The Nevada foreclosure rate continues to lead all states for the 38th month in a row. It did drop 7% from the previous month in February and remained 30% below levels at the same time in 2009. One in every 102 homes in Nevada received a foreclosure filing in February.

Arizona, Florida, California and Michigan rounded out the top five foreclosure rates. Accordingly, each state’s Housing Finance Agency (HFA) is developing a plan to use $1.5bn in federal money to aid either unemployed or underwater homeowners.

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