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Dip in foreclosure rate likely to be short-lived

Allison Schaefers
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RealtyTrac reports there were 877 foreclosure filings in Hawaii in November, up 0.6 percent from the 872 filed during the same month last year, but 31 percent below the 1,271 filings in October.

Real estate foreclosures in Hawaii dropped to their lowest count in a year in November.

Data released today by California-based real estate research firm RealtyTrac showed 877 foreclosure filings in Hawaii in November. That was up 0.6 percent from the 872 filed during the same month last year, but was 31 percent below the 1,271 filings recorded in October and about 46 percent lower than the record 1,629 filings achieved in August.

Hawaii and most of the country experienced holiday-related foreclosure slowdowns in November, said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac’s marketing communications manager. Foreclosures also were down because of fallout from the discovery earlier this year that lenders had not followed proper foreclosure procedures. Some lenders had to revise or resubmit questionable paperwork, Blomquist said.

But while the number of foreclosures is on the decline in many states, Hawaii probably will see more foreclosures throughout most of 2011, he said.

"Hawaii is about 21 months behind the foreclosure pattern that we’ve seen in California," Blomquist said. "In California there were essentially four years of increases before we began to see decreases; so in Hawaii we’d expect to see another three quarters of increases."

Michelle Saito, a director for Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties, also sees signs that Hawaii’s foreclosure problem will continue into next year.

"We are getting a lot more assignments and the rate of these announcements has increased," said Saito, who represents lenders who want to bring foreclosures to market.

Many Hawaii foreclosures that were put on hold in October to be scrutinized more closely were released as of Dec. 1, she said. Once the holidays are over, Saito expects Hawaii’s foreclosure activity will become steady again.

"Each seller is telling us that there are more to come," she said. "It feels like it is a big part of our market, and it will be a bigger part of the market."

Some regions of Hawaii have been harder hit than others, said Howard Dinits, a real estate agent for Re/Max Resort Realty in Maui and the Big Island.

Neighbor island locations like Kihei, Maui and the Big Island’s Waikoloa that were popular with second-home and speculative buyers during the last real estate boom have seen foreclosures increase as the economy and tourism have declined, Dinits said. Markets like Ewa Beach and Kapolei on Oahu and Puna and Pahoa on the Big Island where buyers stretched to purchase "affordable" properties also have suffered, he said. Tighter underwriting standards and dropping property values have made it hard for owners to refinance unfavorable loans, Dinits said.

"Homes that were selling for $250,000 in 2006 in Pahoa are on the market for $59,000," he said.

Nationwide, the foreclosure picture is a little better, Blomquist said.

"Foreclosures are stabilizing or dropping in some of the states that had the worst problems," he said.

The 262,339 foreclosures recorded nationwide in November represented a 14 percent year-over-year decrease and a 21 percent month-over-month decrease. The drops were the largest recorded since RealtyTrac began publishing the U.S. Foreclosure Report in January 2005.

"(Nationwide) foreclosure activity decreased dramatically in November, with fewer than 300,000 properties receiving a foreclosure notice for the first time since February 2009," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer at RealtyTrac.

Nevada, Utah and California, three states with ties to Hawaii, continued to struggle the most with foreclosures in November. These states have long been popular source markets with Hawaii visitors and second-home buyers. They are also states where many Hawaii residents have made investments.

"If things don’t improve in some of those western states, it will be tough for Hawaii to pull itself up by its own bootstraps without some improvement in those areas," Blomquist said.

Despite a 20 percent monthly decrease in foreclosure activity, Nevada posted the nation’s highest state foreclosure rate for the 47th straight month. One in every 99 Nevada housing units received a foreclosure filing in November — nearly five times the national average. Utah, whose foreclosure rate was one in every 221 housing units, came in second.

With one in every 233 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing in November, California posted the nation’s third highest foreclosure rate despite a nearly 14 percent decrease in foreclosure activity from the previous month and a 22 percent decrease in foreclosure activity from November 2009.

Other states with foreclosure rates ranking among the top 10 in November were Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Idaho, Illinois and Colorado.

When it came to the number of foreclosures, California, Florida, Michigan, Georgia, Texas, Illinois, Nevada, Ohio, Arizona and Pennsylvania posted the nation’s highest totals. California alone accounted for 22 percent of the national total in November, with 57,378 properties receiving a foreclosure filing during the month — the nation’s highest state total.

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