A 37-month string of rising Hawaii foreclosure filings was broken last month, but industry observers don’t agree on whether homeowner mortgage troubles are subsiding.
A report by real estate research firm RealtyTrac said 930 foreclosure actions occurred statewide in July, or 6 percent fewer than the 990 in the same month last year.
NO PLACE TO CALL HOME
Hawaii’s monthly foreclosures over the past year, including the year-over-year percentage gain:
It was the first year-over-year decline for any month since May 2007, before the ugly meltdown of the financial and real estate industries took hold.
July’s tally of foreclosure activity also was the lowest for any month since 872 filings in November. The peak was 1,534 in December.
The improvement was concentrated in the number of early-stage filings — default notices and trustee sale notices — that happen in advance of any foreclosure sale. The number of properties taken back by lenders was higher.
The combined number of default and trustee sale notices was 518, the lowest since February 2009 when there were 466 such filings.
In July, the majority of foreclosure filings were repossessions by lenders. There were 412 such filings, a record high that compared with 323 in the same month last year.
This suggests that so-called foreclosure starts are easing, while more mortgages already in the foreclosure pipeline are exiting the process.
RealtyTrac spokesman Daren Blomquist said such a trend has been seen in other states that were hit by foreclosure troubles earlier and harder than Hawaii, including California, Arizona and Nevada.
"It’s a good sign," he said. "We’re starting to see, in Hawaii, declines in initial foreclosure notices."
However, some observers suspect lenders may only be holding back on processing what they believe is a still-growing backlog of delinquencies due to workload limitations and efforts to work out defaults.
A better idea of whether the worst of Hawaii’s foreclosure mess is past should emerge with more data over the next few months.
Local foreclosure attorney Marvin Dang said he hasn’t experienced any slowdown in cases at his practice. "I can’t say anything’s changing for the better," he said.
Compared with other states, Hawaii’s rate of foreclosure filings was 16th highest, at one filing for every 551 households.
The national rate was one filing per 397 households. Nevada had the worst rate at one filing per 82 households. West Virginia had the best rate at one filing per 10,307 households.
By county, Honolulu had the most filings with 361, but it had the lowest rate, at one filing for every 934 households.
Kauai had the next-best rate at one filing per 392 households, based on 76 total filings.
On the Big Island the rate was one filing per 381 households, based on 209 total filings.
Maui had the worst rate, at one filing per 233 households, or 284 filings in all.