NEW YORK - U.S. mortgage foreclosure filings in August hovered near July's record high despite broad efforts to keep borrowers in their homes and will probably rise for another year, according to a report released on Thursday.
Filings -- including notices of default, auction and bank repossession -- dipped 1 percent last month from July's all-time high and were up 18 percent in August from the same month a year earlier, real estate data firm RealtyTrac said.
The pipeline of early stage foreclosures and delinquent loans is still probably going to overwhelm the system's ability to quickly modify terms so struggling homeowners can make their monthly mortgage payments, said Rick Sharga, senior vice president at the Irvine, California-based company.
One in every 357 U.S. households with loans got a foreclosure filing in August.
Though lenders are moving in the right direction, Sharga said, RealtyTrac is revising up its estimate for filings this year and now expects a more prolonged foreclosure crisis.
Some 3.4 million households will get a filing this year, up from the prior estimate of 3 million to 3.2 million, and sharply higher than 2.3 million filings last year.
If the forecast is realized, it will be more than four times the filings in 2005, before the deepest housing crash since the Great Depression began.
We had been thinking that this year would be the peak, but at the rate things are going right now, it's appearing more likely that late 2010 might be the peak year before things start to moderate, Sharga said.
A quick recovery is not in the cards, either.
I don't expect it to be that 2010 will peak and 2011 will be the wonderful land of Oz, Sharga added.
BANK REPOSSESSIONS DOWN BUT FORECLOSURE PIPELINE FULL
Foreclosures that were delayed by various state and federal moratoria that mostly ended in March have been pushing through the system in the summer.
Meantime, the Obama administration's housing rescue has slowly started taking hold.
Just 12 percent of U.S. homeowners eligible under the loan modification program have had their loans altered, the Treasury Department said on Wednesday. That share has risen in the month, but Treasury still expects millions more foreclosures.
The reason the numbers are just phenomenally high is that we're dealing right now with two concurrent problems, said Sharga, referring to sour loans made when standards were lax as well as the highest U.S. unemployment rate in 26 years.
The lone bright spot in August was a modest decline in bank repossessions, Sharga said.
Whether it's loan modifications or the banks just delaying the ultimate repossessions, we're not seeing quite the volume of repossessions you'd expect with this level of activity of foreclosure notices, he said.
But while the REOs, or real estate-owned properties, dropped 13 percent in August, we also saw a record high number of properties either entering default or being scheduled for a public foreclosure auction for the first time, RealtyTrac Chief Executive James Saccacio said in a statement.
Six states had 62 percent of total foreclosure actions in August, even though REOs fell in each of those states.
California REOs dropped 32 percent from July, but the state continued to post the highest overall total with 92,326 properties with loans getting a filing.
Nevada, Florida and California had the highest state foreclosure rates, respectively.
Nevada had the highest rate with one in 62 households getting a filing in August. Filings were down 8 percent in the month but up 53 percent in the year.
Rounding out the states with the highest rates of foreclosure activity were Michigan, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Georgia and Illinois.
A new Michigan law requiring lenders to file a separate public default notice before slating a foreclosure auction pushed the state to the fifth highest rate from 19th place in the prior month.