County, state see big jump in foreclosures

Release of distressed properties fuels rise

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A new wave of foreclosure filings hit the local and state real estate markets, as lenders released a backlog of distressed properties.

Last month the number of foreclosure filings in Washington state jumped 38 percent compared with August 2011, according to the latest data from RealtyTrac, an online database for foreclosure properties. Washington also had the biggest jump in new foreclosure filings last month, rising 143 percent over August 2011.

The jump in foreclosure filings comes after 16 straight months of year-over-year declines, according to RealtyTrac.

Clark County also posted a jump in foreclosure filings. According to the report, this area had 383 foreclosure filings last month, up from 286 in August 2011. A vast majority of last month's filings were "notice of trustee sale" documents, typically the first stage of the foreclosure process.

The backlog of distressed property had been building for some time, with about 80,000 Washington state mortgages now more than 90 days delinquent, said Glenn Crellin, associate director of research at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies, based at the University of Washington.

Crellin expects foreclosure filings to remain at elevated levels for the coming months but doesn't expect lenders to act too quickly.

"Banks are probably not staffed up to the point where they can go through this quickly," Crellin said. "This will probably take a while."

As to why this sudden wave of foreclosures is coming now, RealtyTrac officials suspect recent legislation might be a factor.

"The rebounding activity in Washington state is likely the result of lenders catching up with foreclosures delayed by a state law that took effect in July 2011 and allowed homeowners facing foreclosure to request mediation. This rebounding pattern will likely be repeated in the coming months in other states that have passed legislation delaying the foreclosure process," said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac, in a press release accompanying the data.

The jump in foreclosure filings comes at a time when sales have rebound

ed and median prices have stabilized across much of the state and Clark County. During the months of June, July and August, Clark County real estate agents sold 1,464 houses and condominiums, up 3 percent compared with the same period last year, according to RMLS, a Portland-based multiple listing service. The median price — half sold for more, half for less — was $204,9000 in August for residential units, a 9.7 percent increase compared with August 2011.

Local Realtors have said less distressed property on the market was a factor in stabilizing prices in the summer.

Washington now has the 11th highest foreclosure rate, with one in 664 housing units receiving a notice last month. Across the U.S., one in 681 housing units received a notice in August. In Clark County, one in 477 housing units got a notice.