Home foreclosure auctions in Summit County, Ohio bucked the statewide trend in 2009 when the number of homes sold through public auctions in the county plunged to its lowest level in seven years.

The county auctioned off only 1,317 housing units in 2009, a big decline from the 2,919 units sold off in 2008. The total value of homes sold last year was $92.3 million, a substantial drop from the $198 million in auction sales in 2008.

The drop in foreclosure sales last year is good news to most people, but housing analysts warn that the foreclosure sales decline is not yet a strong sign of market recovery. According to Mark Seifert, head of the Cleveland organization called Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People, the sharp drop in foreclosures was largely caused by the rising number of mortgage lenders not immediately pursuing sheriff’s auctions after getting court approvals because of the extremely low level of home prices.

Thomas Teodosio, Common Pleas Judge of Summit County, also said that many banks have been withdrawing distressed properties from scheduled home foreclosure auctions because they do not want to burden themselves with real estate taxes and maintenance costs in case the properties are not sold off. Teodosio, however, reiterated that he only approves withdrawals if the reasons are legitimate.

There are also other major reasons for the decline in foreclosures, according to analysts. These include foreclosure moratoriums, personal bankruptcies, short sale initiatives, court-ordered mediation and loan modification under the federal Home Affordable Modification Program.

County officials also reported that they conducted more auctions in 2008 than in 2009. Almost 5,150 foreclosed homes were scheduled for public auction in 2008, far above the 2,979 foreclosure homes readied for auction in 2009.

Across Ohio, foreclosure postings reached a record 85,773 filings last year, based on data from the Ohio Supreme Court. The biggest increases occurred in Medina, Portage, Lake and Geauga, where filings shot up by 10 to 15 percent.

While foreclosure activity slowed in the counties of Cuyahoga and Summit, they posted the two highest numbers in foreclosure filings in 2009, which are 13,858 and 4,113 filings, respectively.

Akron, the county seat of Summit County, has been among the most foreclosure-clobbered counties in the nation. Over the past five years, around 20,000 housing units in the county have been hit with foreclosure filings, and out of these distressed properties, over 10,600 homes have been sold off at home foreclosure auctions.

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