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Oahu betters its U.S. foreclosure ranking

A state law cut the tally of homes being seized, so Honolulu lands at 137 out of 211 metro areas

By Andrew Gomes

LAST UPDATED: 2:26 p.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

Constraints on Hawaii home foreclosures imposed by a new state law helped make Honolulu look better in a comparison of foreclosure troubles among 211 major metropolitan areas for the first half of the year.

A report released Wednesday by real estate research firm RealtyTrac put Honolulu, or Oahu, almost into the healthiest third of cities in the survey.

Honolulu ranked 137th out of 211 markets, meaning 136 other markets had worse foreclosure rates.

RealtyTrac said 1,890 homes, or 0.56 percent of all homes, in Honolulu were in some stage of foreclosure between January and June.

The count was down 32 percent from 2,784 homes in foreclosure during the first half of last year, when Honolulu ranked 112th out of 204 cities surveyed by RealtyTrac.


Property foreclosure totals and the percentage of homes in foreclosure among the biggest 211 U.S. metropolitan areas during the first half of this year:
1. Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev. 43,944 5.36%
2. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. 60,985 3.51%
3. Modesto, Calif. 5,824 3.32%
4. Stockton, Calif. 7,422 3.24%
5. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. 46,959 3.21%
137. Honolulu 1,890 0.56%
Source: RealtyTrac

The worst rate during the first half of this year was in Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev., where 5.36 percent of all homes were in foreclosure. Utica-Rome, N.Y., and Burlington-South Burlington, Vt., tied for the best rate at 0.01 percent. The rate for all 211 metro markets was 0.90 percent.

Honolulu's improved ranking was influenced by a state law enacted in May, according to local foreclosure attorneys.

The law primarily intended to force lenders to make better efforts at negotiating loan modification plans with borrowers through a mediation program overseen by the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

But an unexpected result was a de facto moratorium on out-of-court, or nonjudicial, foreclosures because DCCA won't accept any new nonjudicial foreclosure filings until the mediation program is running. The program is expected to be running by Oct. 1.

Some lenders recently began funneling foreclosures through state court, which in recent years had largely been avoided because it costs more and takes longer than nonjudicial foreclosure. But it's clear that Hawaii's judicial system can't handle what industry officials say is still a growing volume of delinquent mortgages.

Many of Hawaii's foreclosure problems are concentrated on the neighbor islands, which have higher rates of foreclosure but fewer foreclosures because their housing markets are smaller than Oahu's.

RealtyTrac's metro foreclosure report included only metropolitan areas with populations of at least 200,000.

Of the 211 markets surveyed, Honolulu was one of 178 markets in which foreclosure rates fell, making it part of a trend influenced by what RealtyTrac said are widespread processing issues and other factors that are preventing delinquent mortgages from entering foreclosure.

Honolulu's 32 percent decrease in foreclosures was fairly big, but 59 other markets had larger decreases, with 33 metro areas seeing drops of 50 percent or more.

"These dramatic decreases indicate the foreclosure pipeline continues to be clogged in many local markets across the country, sometimes by a glut of already-foreclosed properties that are not selling quickly, sometimes by a mountain of improperly filed foreclosures that are blocking the inflow of new foreclosure filings — and sometimes by both," James Saccacio, RealtyTrac's chief executive officer, said in a statement.

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