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Foreclosures rise 37 percent

The ranking for Hawaii improves to 12th in the nation in October

By Andrew Gomes

LAST UPDATED: 1:48 a.m. HST, Nov 11, 2010

Real estate foreclosures in Hawaii settled a bit in a national ranking and fell below an August peak, though the count was still up from a year earlier.

Data released yesterday by real estate research firm RealtyTrac showed there were 1,271 foreclosure filings against real estate in Hawaii in October. That was up 37 percent from 925 during the same month last year, but was below 1,617 filings in September and the record 1,629 in August.

Hawaii's ranking nationally improved to 12th highest last month, moving out of the top 10 states with the most dismal foreclosure rates after reaching its worst spot -- ninth -- in September.

The local foreclosure rate equated to one filing for every 404 homes in the state.

The national rate was one filing per 389 homes. Nevada had the worst rate at one foreclosure filing per 79 homes. Vermont had the best rate at one filing per 14,210 homes.

Nationally, the number of foreclosures was unchanged last month from a year earlier, but James Saccacio, RealtyTrac chief executive officer, said the volume last month likely was depressed by some lenders suspending foreclosures after disclosing that documents in many cases were improperly signed.

"The numbers probably would have been higher except for the fallout from the recent 'robo-signing' controversy," Saccacio said in a statement.

The timeout taken by lenders including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and GMAC Mortgage are believed to have had little impact in Hawaii because the vast majority of foreclosure cases aren't filed in court, where the documents in question are required.

Still, the pause by lenders while they assess and correct deficiencies may have created a lull even in Hawaii foreclosure cases that could yield to more vigorous activity after the holidays.

"You are not going to have a drop any time soon," said David Rosen, a local attorney involved in foreclosures. "There's just a huge backlog."

Part of the reason Hawaii is among the worst states for foreclosures is that many other states suffered sharper and swifter real estate market corrections compared with Hawaii, resulting in more recent improvements for other markets. Up until mid-2008, Hawaii had been among the five or 10 states with the lowest foreclosure rates.

Another contributing factor in Hawaii's recent rankings may be RealtyTrac's methodology of counting foreclosures, which doesn't exclude commercial property such as hotel-condominium units and time shares, of which Hawaii has plenty.

Still, there's no doubt Hawaii homeowners continue to struggle with job losses, property value adjustments and mortgage payments set at or near peaks of the housing market boom.

One illustration of the local foreclosure picture is at the foot of Punchbowl, where a three-bedroom house was listed for sale on Tuesday by a lender at $710,000. The house built in 2003 sold for $975,000 in 2006.

By county, Honolulu consistently has had the most foreclosure filings but the lowest rate. Last month, there were 551 filings in Honolulu, or one for every 612 households.

Hawaii County had the worst foreclosure rate at one filing per 216 households, or 369 filings in all.

In Maui County, the rate was one filing per 256 households, or 258 filings total.

Kauai's rate was one filing per 320 households, based on 93 filings.

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