Foreclosure activity surged last month across about half of America, as banks tackled a backlog of homes with mortgages that had gone unpaid yet remained in limbo due to delays stemming from foreclosure-abuse claims.
The increase occurred across 26 US states where the courts supervise the foreclosure process. In contrast, the 24 states where the courts do not play a role in the process saw activity decline in February, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac said yesterday.
While uneven, the pace of foreclosures is accelerating following a $25 billion (Dh91.80 billion) settlement reached last month between America's biggest mortgage lenders and state officials. The settlement was over the industry's alleged foreclosure abuses.
Major banks temporarily put foreclosures on hold in the fall of 2010 after claims surfaced that lenders and mortgage servicers were processing foreclosures without verifying documents. As a result, many homes that would have normally ended up foreclosed were left in a procedural limbo, particularly in states where courts play a role in the process.
But that logjam has begun to ease, and banks are moving to sort out their roster of problem mortgages.
"We're not just seeing an increase in properties starting the foreclosure process, as we have in previous months, but we're starting to see dramatic increases in properties completing the foreclosure process in many of those judicial foreclosure states," said Daren Blomquist, a vice president at RealtyTrac.
That means potentially more foreclosed homes hitting the market this year that could drag down the value of neighbouring homes.
Among states with a judicial foreclosure process, foreclosure activity rose 2 per cent last month from January, and climbed 24 per cent from February last year, the firm said.
Foreclosure activity across states without a court-supervised process fell 5 per cent in February from the previous month and declined 23 per cent from a year earlier.
Overall, US foreclosure activity dipped 2 per cent from January and was down 8 per cent from February last year.