Local foreclosed home sales rise

In Clark County, activity up 18.8% January-March

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Higher sales of foreclosures helped Clark County's housing market creep a bit closer to recovery during the first few months of the year, as documented by two different reports released Wednesday.

According to CoreLogic, a California-based data and business services company, there were 5,729 completed -- or sold -- foreclosures in April throughout the Portland-Vancouver metro area, an increase of 0.1 percent from April 2011. In Clark County alone, 569 foreclosed houses were sold in the first three months of 2012, an 18.8 percent increase from the same January-through-March period last year, reported RealtyTrac Inc., a California-based company.

The numbers in both reports support predictions made months ago that foreclosure activity would increase after the terms of an agreement were settled between 49 states' attorneys general and the nation's five largest mortgage servicers, accused of mishandling foreclosures with rubber-stamp signing that become known as robo-signing. The $25 billion deal was struck in February. It translated to $648 million for Washington's troubled homeowners, including money for mortgage counseling and to help modify house payments. It also included money earmarked for checks to be written directly to some foreclosure victims.

"That was what they were predicting, and we did as the inventory worked through the pipeline after the robo-signing scandal," practiced mostly in states where foreclosures require a judicial process, said Mike Lamb, a broker with Windermere/Stellar Group in Vancouver. Washington does not use a judicial process in its foreclosures.

More foreclosures

Now that the lawsuit has been settled, foreclosure activity is up in a number of states including Washington, according to CoreLogic. It reported 18,288 foreclosures were completed over the past year in Washington, a 1.5 percent increase.

By dramatic comparison, California recorded 142,000 foreclosures from April through April, giving it the nation's highest number of foreclosures. Florida was next with 92,000 foreclosures; Michigan with 60,000; Texas with 58,000; and Georgia with 57,000 foreclosures. In Oregon, there were 9,866 foreclosures in the year ending in April.

Lamb said he does not expect rising Clark County foreclosure sales to continue, because more banks are turning to short sales to move people out of the homes they can no longer afford. The transactions used to take months to process but now are starting to take less time, he said.

"We're finally starting to see the banks get their act together with short sales," Lamb said.

He added that he expects total home sales to increase through the summer, spurred by low prices and low mortgage interest rates.

"I think people have finally realized the prices have hit bottom," he said.

The median price of an existing home — half sold for more, half for less — in Clark County inched $100 higher in April compared with the same month a year earlier, according to RMLS, a Portland-based multiple-listing service.

However, closed home sales actually declined for the month. The RMLS reported 400 closed sales in April, down from 412 in March and down from 418 closed sales the same month last year.

CoreLogic has tracked approximately 3.6 million completed foreclosures across the country since the start of the financial crisis in September 2008. Completed foreclosures are an indication of the total number of homes actually lost to foreclosure. There were 66,000 completed foreclosures in the U.S. in April, compared with 78,000 in April 2011 and 66,000 in March 2012.

CoreLogic reported the number of foreclosures is on the rise in states that require a judicial process for the measure, while nonjudicial states have seen inventories of foreclosures decline due to shorter processing times.