By John Hielscher Published: Monday, April 20, 2015 at 1:00 a.m. Last Modified: Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 5:00 p.m.
WHILE THE FORECLOSURE crisis in Florida continues to ease, the state remains the national leader in homes seized by lenders.
A total of 122,817 foreclosures were completed in Florida during the 12-month period ended in February, which accounted for 20 percent of all completed foreclosures nationwide.
Florida also reports the third-highest foreclosure inventory, with 3.4 percent of its homes in some stage of distress, according to data provider CoreLogic.
Only New Jersey, at 5.3 percent, and New York, at 4.0 percent, were higher.
On the plus side, Florida's foreclosure rate has dropped from 6.0 percent a year ago, indicating that more homeowners are holding on to their properties.
But Florida remains well ahead of the 1.4 percent foreclosure rate for the U.S.
"The number of homes in foreclosure proceedings fell by 27 percent from a year ago and stands at about one-third of what it was at the trough of the housing cycle," said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic.
"While the drop in the share of mortgages in foreclosure to 1.4 percent is a welcome sign of continued recovery in the housing market, the share remains more than double the 0.6 percent average foreclosure rate that we saw during 2000-2004," he said.
The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater region posted the second-highest foreclosure rate among major metro areas, with 4.3 percent of its homes in some stage of distress.
Foreclosure activity slowed in Southwest Florida in February, reflecting a statewide trend of fewer filings against struggling homeowners.
Despite the decline, the Sarasota-Manatee region posted the 15th-highest foreclosure rate among the nation's largest metro areas, with one in every 604 homes in some stage of distress, according to a separate report by real estate researcher RealtyTrac.
Foreclosure filings throughout Florida declined 35 percent over the year, but the state still ranked third in the U.S., with one in every 570 homes in the process.
A total of 816 foreclosure filings -- default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions -- were reported in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties last month.
That was down from a revised 1,024 in January and 1,143 in February 2014.
Lis pendens notices -- the first step in the foreclosure process -- also dropped after spiking in January. Lenders filed 158 of the notices in the three-county region in February, down 65 percent over the month.
Nationally, an estimated 553,000 U.S. homes sit in the foreclosure inventory, down from 761,000 homes over the year, CoreLogic said.
Since the financial crisis began in September 2008, approximately 5.6 million foreclosures have been completed. Some 7.7 million homes have been lost to foreclosure since homeownership rates peaked in second-quarter 2004, CoreLogic said.
"The foreclosure inventory dropped year over year in all but two states," said Anand Nallathambi, president/CEO at CoreLogic. "The foreclosure rates in judicial foreclosure states are beginning to pick up and remain higher than in non-judicial states.
"What's encouraging is that fewer Americans are seriously delinquent in paying their mortgages, which in turn is reducing the foreclosure inventory across the country as a whole," he said.
In Florida, 7.5 percent of mortgages are considered to be seriously delinquent -- at least 90 days past due -- which was the second-highest in the nation.
But that was down from 10.6 percent over the year.
The U.S. average is 4 percent, the lowest since June 2008