REO inventories drop even as banks hold on to them longer

Foreclosure starts drop in Arizona, Nevada, Oregon

Inventories of bank-owned properties fell year over year across four Western states in July even as lenders took longer to get those properties off their books, according to the latest report from real estate data company ForeclosureRadar.

The report covers foreclosure trends in California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington and Oregon. Of the five states, only Oregon did not see its bank-owned inventory drop last month.

In California, the number of homes repossessed by lenders but not yet resold, known as bank-owned or real estate owned (REO) inventory, was down 36.4 percent to 66,000 properties last month. Banks sold REOs in 283 days on average, up from 232 days in July 2011. By contrast, homes bought by third parties at auction, usually investors, were resold in an average 138 days, up from 128 days a year ago.

Nonetheless, there are some signs the pipeline of foreclosures in the Golden State is speeding up a bit. Foreclosure starts rose 12.3 percent year over year in July to 21,175. The average number of days between the initial notice of default and the end of the foreclosure process (with the property either sold to a third party or repossessed by the bank) was 276 days last month (equivalent to about nine months), down from 310 days (about 10 months) a year ago.

Among the California homes in the foreclosure process whose fates were decided in July, most (10,398) experienced a cancellation of the process due to a successful loan modification or short sale, among other possible reasons. The number of properties that went back to the bank as REOs declined 54.2 percent on an annual basis to 4,512. Foreclosure sales to third parties fell 6.6 percent to 3,269.

In Arizona, foreclosure starts fell 28.2 percent year over year in July, to 4,433. Foreclosure cancellations were down 4.4 percent annually, to 3,575. The number of properties that went back to the bank as REOs decreased 33.8 percent year over year, to 2,191. Those sold to third parties rose 3 percent on an annual basis, to 1,630.

Arizona’s REO inventory fell 38.1 percent last month, to 14,784. While the time to foreclose declined to an average 136 days from 175 days in July 2011, the time between when the bank took back the property and the property was resold rose a whopping 64.9 percent, to an average 244 days in July. Third parties resold properties in less than half that time, 107 days, up from 94 days a year ago.

Foreclosure activity in Nevada has slowed to a trickle, likely as a result of a Nevada state law that went into effect in October designed to crack down on documentation irregularities by foreclosing lenders.

In July, Nevada foreclosure starts were down 61.8 percent, to 1,618, compared with 4,235 a year ago. Foreclosure cancellations were down to 800, a nearly 60 percent drop from July 2011, but the number of properties becoming REOs dropped even more precipitously, 77.8 percent, to only 394 properties. The number of properties sold to third parties on the courthouse steps fell 34.4 percent, to 429.

The state’s REO inventory was down 63.8 percent to 5,541 in July with the number of homes in the foreclosure pipeline dropping by more than half year over year. It took nearly 46 percent longer to foreclose on a property last month than it did in July 2011: an average of 471 days — the equivalent of nearly 16 months. Banks also took considerably longer to sell homes once they’d repossessed them — an average 221 days, up from 154 days a year ago. Third parties resold in an average 133 days, up from 98 days.

In Washington state, time to foreclose was virtually unchanged from a year ago in July: 102 days on average. Foreclosure starts were up 13.1 percent to 2,527. Cancellations fell 59.5 percent to 601. The number of properties that went back to the bank as REOs fell 67.1 percent to 595. Foreclosure sales to third parties fell 36 percent to 151.

As in the aforementioned states, REO inventory in Washington fell substantially last month: down 42.2 percent to 6,554. Banks took an average of 249 days to resell an REO property, up 25.9 percent. By contrast, third parties took an average 107 days to resell, down 24.1 percent.

In Oregon, foreclosure starts were down 58.6 percent year over year in July, to 426.

"This is most likely related to both the new Oregon law, SB 1552, that gives homeowners at risk of default, or in default, the right to request mediation to avoid foreclosure, as well as the Oregon Court of Appeals ruling that may force some lenders to proceed judicially with foreclosures," the report said.

"It is still not clear whether this is a temporary decline or part of a move toward judicial foreclosure in Oregon."

Nonetheless, time to foreclose fell to an average of 143 days from 162 days a year ago. Foreclosure cancellations in Oregon fell 11.9 percent on an annual basis last month, to 761 properties. At the same time, the number of properties reverting to REOs rose 93.6 percent year over year, to 395. Sales to third parties rose 73.7 percent, to 66 properties.

In contrast to the other four states in the ForeclosureRadar report, REO inventory in Oregon rose in July, up 39.7 percent to 3,153 properties. Banks also resold REOs at a quicker pace — an average of 203 days, down from 219 a year ago. Third parties resold in an average of 79 days, up from 66 in July 2011.

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