Lenders pursued or completed foreclosure against a record number of Hawaii properties last year.
There were 12,425 properties statewide affected by foreclosure last year, which was 38 percent more than the 9,002 properties in 2009 and more than triple the 3,525 properties in 2008, according to the latest report from RealtyTrac, a real estate data company.
Most of the properties were homes, though RealtyTrac doesn’t exclude commercial real estate from its foreclosure data. If all the properties affected by foreclosure were homes, the total last year would represent 2.42 percent of all homes in the state, up from 1.8 percent the year before.
The growing number reflects the state’s continuing struggle with economic recovery, and has strained families.
But so far foreclosures haven’t reached epidemic proportions seen in states such as Nevada, Arizona and Florida.
"We’ve been relatively fortunate," said Jon Mann, a Honolulu real estate agent. "We haven’t really been impacted as significantly as some mainland markets."
Hawaii’s foreclosure level was close to the national average — 2.23 percent of housing affected by foreclosure last year — though Hawaii’s rate was 11th highest.
The worst problem is in Nevada, where 9.42 percent of homes were affected by foreclosure last year. The lowest rate was 0.13 percent in Vermont.
In Hawaii, more than half the properties affected by foreclosure were on the neighbor islands, where many out-of-state investors bought vacation homes during the real estate boom in the mid-2000s.
On the Big Island, there were foreclosure filings against 3,370 properties last year, representing 4.23 percent of homes.
Maui had 2,675 properties with foreclosure filings, or 4.05 percent of homes.
Kauai had 819 properties with foreclosure filings, or 2.75 percent of homes.
Oahu had the most properties affected by foreclosure but the lowest rate — 5,561 properties representing 1.65 percent of the housing market.
Real estate industry watchers caution that foreclosures could put downward pressure on housing prices if an overbearing number of foreclosed homes wind up on the market.
On Oahu, there were close to 3,200 single-family homes and condominiums on the market at the end of last year.
Mann said about 15 percent to 20 percent of the inventory was owned by lenders or homeowners trying to avoid foreclosure through short sales.
Whether the percentage will rise is hard to tell because not all homes that enter foreclosure are sold. Some owners work out their mortgage difficulties. In other cases, foreclosure can drag on for more than a year.
Mann notes that some additional inventory won’t necessarily hurt the market because present inventory is relatively tight.
Hawaii’s foreclosure problem is expected to worsen this year, according to local foreclosure attorneys.
There was a lull in the past two months, but the industry attributes that to lenders holding up cases to address improper processing issues raised a few months ago.
The number of foreclosure filings in December was 1,000. That was down 35 percent from 1,302 in the same month last year but was up from 877 in November.
Lenders filed a flurry of new foreclosure cases last month — 163 default notices, which according to RealtyTrac was the highest number in more than a year.
The bulk of filings last month were auction notices and lender repossessions.
RealtyTrac numbers for the full year are different in that they count properties going through foreclosure. The monthly counts are foreclosure filings, which can be counted on the same property in different months.