Foreclosures down in state and area

Foreclosure activity statewide and locally dropped sharply in the first half of 2016, but Ohio maintained its dubious distinction as one of the nation’s leading states for foreclosures, according to figures released Thursday by RealtyTrac.

The real estate data firm found that 27,576 foreclosure-related documents — including default notices, scheduled auctions or bank repossessions — were filed in Ohio from the beginning of the year through June, a decline of 16.85 percent from the previous six months and 7.5 percent from the first half of 2015.

In the nine-county region, foreclosure activity fell 14.3 percent compared to the previous six months, from 4,803 filings to 4,114.

Greene County led the decline, showing a 40 percent drop-off in foreclosures compared to the last six months of 2015.

Montgomery County — the Miami Valley’s most populous county, and the area county hardest hit by foreclosures — saw foreclosures decline by 8.3 percent over the same period.

“We’re definitely seeing the downward trend in foreclosures continue,” said Karen O’Grady, president-elect of the Dayton Area Board of Realtors. “Five or 10 years ago, we saw foreclosures even in the luxury market, homes priced $500,000 and up. But we don’t see any of that anymore.

“There are still some pockets of foreclosures, but nothing like it was years ago.”

Nationally, there were 533,813 U.S. properties with foreclosure filings in the first six months of 2016, down 20 percent from the previous six months and down 11 percent from the corresponding months in 2015.

But even as foreclosures continued their downward slide, Ohio bucked the national trend.

The number of properties starting the foreclosure process in the first half of the year was up 10 percent in Ohio, which was one of 13 states (plus the District of Columbia) that posted a year-over-year increase in foreclosure starts.

By comparison, foreclosure starts nationwide fell to a record low in first half of 2016, with a total of 253,408 properties starting the process. That was down 17 percent from a year ago — the lowest level for any half-year period since RealtyTrac began tracking foreclosure starts in 2006.

Experts attribute the uptick in starts in Ohio to the drawn-out foreclosure process.

“With some exceptions, states with foreclosure activity continuing to run above pre-recession levels tend to be those with protracted foreclosure timelines still working through legacy distress from the last housing bust,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac.

Nationwide, foreclosures completed in the second quarter of 2016 took an average of 629 days from the first public notice of foreclosure to complete the process, up from 625 days the previous quarter and unchanged from a year ago.

By comparison, it takes more than 900 days, on average, for foreclosures to be completed in Ohio, which was among the states with the longest foreclosure timelines, ranking behind only New Jersey (1,249 days), Hawaii (1,236), New York (1,058), Utah (1,025), and Florida (1,012).

“I think the banks just don’t have the staff to process all the foreclosures,” O’Grady said. “It can take months to hear back from the banks just to get the process started.”

Many properties that were put into the foreclosure process more than a year ago are still winding their way through the court system, due in part to housing reforms aimed at preventing the abuses that abruptly forced people out of their homes during the 2007-2008 housing bust.

Homeowners facing foreclosure can now request mediation and loan modifications, which can give them a second chance. But it also can cause unnecessary delays for some cases in which the owner ends up losing their home anyway.