Foreclosures Drop to 44-Month Low in July

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Foreclosure monitoring firm Realtytrac's latest monthly report revealed that foreclosure activity dropped 35% from July of 2010 to last month -- the lowest in 44 months. Realtytrac's U.S. Foreclosure Market Report for July 2011 "showed foreclosure filings - default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions - were reported on 212,764 U.S. properties in July, a 4 percent decrease from June."

The list of hardest hit states is nearly identical to what it has been for two years. The top 10 were Georgia, Utah, Florida, Michigan, Idaho, Illinois, Wisconsin, Nevada, California, and Arizona. Most of these states have relatively high unemployment rates which exacerbates the problem.

Despite the data, Realtytrac also warned that the decrease in foreclosures is artificial. Once homes which have been held up by robo-signing delays and state court filings are over, the market should be prepared for another flood of foreclosures. Realtytrac CEO James J. Saccacio, said "Unfortunately, the falloff in foreclosures is not based on a robust recovery in the housing market but on short-term interventions and delays that will extend the current housing market woes into 2012 and beyond. A stabilizing economy and improving job market are the long-term keys to a housing market recovery."

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But, could the process that causes foreclosed homes to be dumped on the market only to depress the prices of other homes be tempered? Maybe. President Obama proposed a program yesterday that would encourage the rental of foreclosed homes owned by the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. Similar programs could spread to banks which offer homes at steep discounts to get residential real estate off of their books. But, financial firms take large write-offs of these and might rather rent some of them, if they could.

Federal attempts to buoy the home market have been a failure so far. The Making Home Affordable Program operation was launched in March 2009. The main component of this plan was the Home Affordable Modification Program. It was set up to lower mortgage payments for those who could not afford them, but wanted to remain in their houses. A Congressional Oversight Panel report issued in December 2010 said the programs has been failures and had fallen far short of goals to modify mortgages for 3 million to 4 million homes .

The failures by the Administration to build a floor under the housing market have been a disappointment but there is always hope. The new Obama plan to rent homes in foreclosure might potentially have a positive effect on home prices.
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