Surprise U.S. Housing Demand Catches Industry Off-Guard – NYTimes.com

March 22, 2013

By: Catherine Rampell
Via: The New York Times

Max Whittaker for The New York Times



SACRAMENTO — After six years of waiting on the sidelines, newly eager home buyers across the country are discovering that there are not enough houses for sale to accommodate the recent flush of demand.

“In my 27 years I’ve never seen inventories this low,” said Kurt K. Colgan, a broker with Lyon Real Estate in the Sacramento metropolitan area, where the share of homes on the market has plummeted by one of the largest amounts in the nation. “I’ve also never seen a market turn so quickly.”

The housing turnaround seems to have caught almost everyone in the business by surprise. As desirable as the long-awaited improvement may be, the unusually low level of homes for sale is creating widespread problems for buyers and sellers alike, leading to bidding wars and bubblelike price jumps in places that not long ago were suffering from major declines. In the Sacramento area, where the housing bust took an especially heavy toll, the median sales price has surged 15 percent over the last year, according to Zillow.

Nationwide, sales prices rose 7.3 percent over the course of 2012, according to the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index, ranging from a slight decline in New York to a surge of 23 percent in Phoenix. Tracking more closely with the national trend were cities like Dallas, up 6.5 percent; Tampa, which rose 7.2 percent; and Denver, which gained 8.5 percent.

In many areas, builders are scrambling to ramp up production but face delays because of the difficulty of finding construction workers and in obtaining permits from suddenly overwhelmed local authorities. At the same time, homeowners — many of them lifted above water for the first time in years — often remain reluctant to sell, either because they want to wait and see how much further prices will climb or because they are afraid of being displaced in the sudden buying frenzy.

“You see a home go for sale and within a couple days there are three, four, six offers,” said Carrie Miskawi, a mother of three young children who has been looking for a new home for the last six months with Mr. Colgan’s help. She and her husband have decided not to put their current home on the market because they fear it will be snatched up before they have a chance to bid successfully on a new one.

“It’s kind of a Catch-22,” Mr. Colgan said. As long as large numbers of people are hesitant to put their own homes on the market because so few other homes are available, he said, there won’t be many homes available.

Across the country, the raw number of homes for sale is at its lowest level since 1999, according to the National Association of Realtors. In the Sacramento metro area, home listings were down 60 percent in January from a year earlier, compared with 23 percent for the country over all, according to Zillow.

Inventories have been whittled down largely because new construction ground to a standstill for several years. Investors large and small have also scooped up most of the backlog of foreclosures and short sales; about 40 percent of all homes bought in Sacramento County over the last year were purchased by owners who currently live at a different address, according to county records and title data provided by the Fidelity National Title Insurance Company.

But steady job growth has put more people back to work, and families that put off moving because they couldn’t afford it are finally ready to do so. “Distressed” sales are down and conventional sales are up.

Extraordinarily low mortgage rates don’t hurt, either.

“The recovery is real,” said John Burns, chief executive of John Burns Real Estate Consulting. “But the pace of the recovery has an artificial component to it.”

Some real estate agents in Sacramento, like Tom Phillips, have resorted to knocking on doors in desirable neighborhoods to see if the owners might, if asked nicely and promised a healthy gain, sell to one of his clients. One couple he represents, Darcey and Jason Schmelzer, just moved into a yearlong rental with their two boys because they sold before they could find a new place. They received four offers on the first day they put their home on the market, with the winning bid about $10,000 above asking price.

For the builders who survived the collapse, the tight market is a signal to get back to work.

Monthly permits for single-family homes in the Sacramento area more than doubled from January 2012 to January 2013, though they are still only a quarter of the level they reached during the bubble. Nationally, the construction industry added 48,000 jobs in February, the biggest increase since 2007.

The housing upturn looks set to continue, finally adding a crucial element of support to the slowly improving economy. The government reported Tuesday that housing permits, while far below their peak, surged in February to their highest level since June 2008, an increase of nearly 34 percent from a year earlier. But it will still be many months before new homes now going through the approval process will be ready to move in.

The New Home Company has ramped up building as fast as it can, said Kevin S. Carson, the president of the company’s Northern California division. Founded in 2009 by the veterans of a major home builder that filed for bankruptcy during the crisis, the company plans to build 120 homes in Northern California this year, in contrast to 50 homes last year.

Construction is expected to take longer than usual, though, and expenses are rising, Mr. Carson said. That is primarily because after six years of almost no local building, skilled labor is scarce.

Many workers in the immigrant-heavy industry have left the area, returning to Mexico and other points south. Others pursued work in Texas’s energy boom, where both drilling and construction jobs have become more plentiful. Those who stayed in the local area often switched to medical data entry, U.P.S. delivery services, or anything else that they could find. Or they filed for disability and dropped out the labor force altogether.

Some, like the 38-year-old electrician Gideon Jacks, are gingerly returning to construction work after taking a hiatus (in Mr. Jacks’s case, the hiatus was in several low-paying jobs at restaurants), but others remain reluctant to return to the hard physical labor and unstable job prospects.

“They say, ‘That’s the last time I’m riding that roller coaster,’ ” said Rick Wylie, president of the Beutler Corporation, a Sacramento air-conditioning and plumbing company. In 2005 he employed 2,100 workers, but by 2009 Beutler had only 270 employees. Mr. Wylie, who currently employs about 550, is now having trouble luring back many workers he let go.

“I don’t mean to complain,” he said. “This is a good problem to have, a world-class problem, to not be able to find workers to do all the work you’re getting.”

The shortages aren’t limited to the workers toiling in the hot sun, either.

“You walk into the permit office, and it’s like a ghost town in there,” said Michael Haemmig, president of Haemmig Construction in Nevada City, Calif., about an hour north of Sacramento. He says local governments were caught off-guard by the suddenly renewed interest in building and do not have enough people in place to handle the paperwork.

“This being California, we have more regulations and permits than ever, and it takes more time to get each permit approved,” he said.

For builders still hesitant to dive into the market too deeply, such delays may actually be welcome, since they help buy more time for prices to rise further.

“If we could build 500 houses right now, could we sell them?” asked Harry Elliott III, president of Elliott Homes, a century-old company that built 250 homes last year and plans 350 this year, compared with a high of 1,400 in 2006. “Possibly, but I don’t want to sell all my lots that I’ve held on to forever and have to give them away at these prices.”

“We lost money for a lot of years, and I’d like to make some money for a change,” he added. “I’m not building because I need the practice.”

With Positions to Fill, Employers Wait for Perfection

March 12, 2013

By: Catherine Rampell
Via: The New York Times

American employers have a variety of job vacancies, piles of cash and countless well-qualified candidates. But despite a slowly improving economy, many companies remain reluctant to actually hire, stringing job applicants along for weeks or months before they make a decision.

If they ever do.

The number of job openings has increased to levels not seen since the height of the financial crisis, but vacancies are staying unfilled much longer than they used to — an average of 23 business days today compared to a low of 15 in mid-2009, according to a new measure of Labor Department data by the economists Steven J. Davis, Jason Faberman and John Haltiwanger.

Beveridge Curve
Some have attributed the more extended process to a mismatch between the requirements of the four million jobs available and the skills held by many of the 12 million unemployed. That’s probably true in a few high-skilled fields, like nursing or biotech, but for a large majority of positions where candidates are plentiful, the bigger problem seems to be a sort of hiring paralysis.

“There’s a fear that the economy is going to go down again, so the message you get from C.F.O.’s is to be careful about hiring someone,” said John Sullivan, a management professor at San Francisco State University who runs a human resources consulting business. “There’s this great fear of making a mistake, of wasting money in a tight economy.”

As a result, employers are bringing in large numbers of candidates for interview after interview after interview. Data from Glassdoor.com, a site that collects information on hiring at different companies, shows that the average duration of the interview process at major companies like Starbucks, General Mills and Southwest Airlines has roughly doubled since 2010.

“After they call you back after the sixth interview, there’s a part of you that wants to say, ‘That’s it, I’m not going back,’ ” said Paul Sullivan, 43, an exasperated but cheerful video editor in Washington. “But then you think, hey, maybe seven is my lucky number. And besides, if I don’t go, they’ll just eliminate me if something else comes up because they’ll think I have an attitude problem.”

Like other job seekers around the country, he has been through marathon interview sessions. Mr. Sullivan has received eighth- and ninth-round callbacks for positions at three different companies. Two of those companies, as it turned out, ultimately decided not to hire anyone, he said; instead they put their openings “on hold” because of budget pressures.

At one company, while signing into the visitor’s log for the sixth time, he was chided by the security guard.

“He thought I worked there and just kept forgetting my security badge,” Mr. Sullivan said. “He couldn’t believe I was actually there for another interview. I couldn’t either! But then I put on a happy face, went upstairs and waited for another round of questions.”

The hiring delays are part of the vicious cycle the economy has yet to escape: jobless and financially stretched Americans are reluctant to spend, which holds back demand, which in turn frays employers’ confidence that sales will firm up and justify committing to a new hire. Job creation over the last two years has been steady but too slow to put a major dent in the backlog of unemployed workers, and the February jobs report due out on Friday is expected to be equally mediocre. Uncertainty about the effect of fiscal policy in Washington is not helping expectations for the rest of the year, either.

“If you have an opening and are not sure about the economy, it’s pretty cheap to wait for a month or two,” said Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University. But in the aggregate, those little delays, coupled with fiscal uncertainty, are stretching out the recovery process. “It’s like one of those horror movies, an economic Friday the 13th, where this recession never seems to die.”

Employers might be making candidates jump through so many hoops partly because so many workers have been jobless for months or years, and hiring managers want to make sure the candidates’ skills are up to date, said Robert Shimer, an economics professor at the University of Chicago.

But there’s also little pressure to hire right now, so long as candidates are abundant and existing staff members are afraid to refuse the extra workload created by an unfilled position. Employers can keep dragging out the hiring process until they’re more confident about their business — or at least until they find the superstar candidate.

“They’re chasing after that purple squirrel,” said Roger Ahlfeld, 44, of Framingham, Mass., using a human resources industry term for an impossibly qualified job applicant.

An H.R. professional himself, Mr. Ahlfeld has been looking for work since August 2011, and has been frustrated to find himself the “silver medalist” for a couple of jobs after six separate rounds of interviews totaling 10 to 20 hours for each position, not including prep work and transportation time. For both of those jobs, though, there still has been no gold medalist. After eight months, they remain unfilled, with the companies intermittently posting a job ad, taking it down, and then posting it again.

In addition to demanding credentials beyond what a given position traditionally requires, employers have thrown up more hurdles as screening devices.

In his job hunt over the last year, Mr. Sullivan has taken several video-editing tests, which he says he aced. But he has also been subjected to a battery of personality and psychological exams, a spelling quiz and even a math test (including a question that began, to the best of his recollection, “If John is on a train traveling from New York at 40 miles per hour, and Susie is on a train from Boston…”).

He passed the math test with a 90 percent score, he said.

“Sister Callahan would be very proud that I was able to remember math problems I learned in prep school,” he said. “But what on earth does that have to do with the job I was applying for? It was like something out of ‘Seinfeld.’ ”

For the companies themselves, economists say, the gantlets they have constructed may be wasting managers’ time and company resources. Besides, there are diminishing returns to interviewing candidates so many times; a recent internal analysis at Google, a company that developed a reputation for over-interviewing even when the economy was good, showed that the optimal number of interviews for any given candidate was four. But according to user reviews on Glassdoor.com, the average Google interview process has expanded in the last two years, to 30 days from 21. Google declined to comment.

And for applicants, the expenses add up fast.

Mr. Sullivan calculates that the three positions he applied for cost him $520.36 in parking fees, two parking tickets, gas and trips to Starbucks while waiting for his interviews. (He recently switched to taking a coffee thermos, he says.) That excludes the costs of producing and mailing his video work, dry-cleaning bills for the suits he dons for interviews and thousands of dollars of fees to become certified in new video-editing programs.

Job seekers just have to hope that the investment pays off.

Jameson Cherilus, 23, counts himself as one of the lucky ones. Since graduating at the top of his 2012 class at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, he has spent hundreds of dollars traveling from his home in Bridgeport to interview for jobs in New York. After about six weeks of interviews for an entry-level administrative position at a talent agency, he was finally offered the job in mid-December.

There’s just one catch.

More than two months later, he said, “They still haven’t given me my start date.”

Skills Gap: Reality or Myth?

February 27, 2013

by Karen Beard and Tom Stellman

The presumed mismatch between the skills of the workforce and the needs of employers, commonly referred to as the “skills gap,” has garnered the attention of politicians, employers, economic developers, and professionals in workforce and education. A number of authoritative sources—Manpower, Deloitte, McKinsey—point to statistics which show that, despite relatively high levels of unemployment, a number of jobs are going unfilled because employers can’t find candidates with the skills they want. This issue will be the subject of discussion led by TIP’s president and CEO, Tom Stellman, at the Texas Economic Development Council’s 2013 Legislative Conference this week.

Several factors are contributing to this gap, including an aging workforce, an education system focused on 4-year degrees, the growing use of automation, and distortions caused by the labor demands of the energy sector. Yet some argue the current situation is less of a “skills” gap than a “wage” gap. Manufacturing wages have stagnated as the value of goods produced per worker has soared. This lackluster performance can make it even harder to attract young workers to manufacturing careers, particularly in a culture that often perceives the industry as a less–than-desirable option for its children.

Even if we could agree on its existence, the question of how best to fill it remains. Focusing on education is at the heart of many initiatives. Yet even if education is the answer, the challenges of timing the flow of workers with the needs of industry remains. Trying to predict which skills will be in demand can result in well-meaning training programs that produce a number of workers in a particular industry only to find that the economy has moved on and left these newly minted skills in the dust.

So, reality or myth? Maybe, like many of life’s questions, the answer is a little of both.

How Boise Beat the National Unemployment Rate

February 21, 2013

By: Mitchell Hartman
Via: Marketplace

Boise Hunter Homes Travis Hunter Harris Ranch
With unemployment at 7.9 percent in January, the U.S. economy has a long way to go to return to anything resembling ‘full employment.’ Economists debate what that would be — a base-level structural unemployment rate at which any employable person who wanted to work, could find a job, given time. The consensus settles around 5 percent to 5.5 percent.

The Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee has set its target rate of ‘healthy’ unemployment at 6.5 percent, at which point it will begin to tighten monetary policy and raise interest rates that are now being maintained at historic lows to encourage hiring, consumer spending and business investment.

But some places in the U.S. have already managed to push local unemployment down to more palatable levels.

Boise, Idaho, is one such place that finds itself sitting in the Fed’s ‘unemployment sweet spot.’

Boise sits in an idyllic valley in Southwestern Idaho, snow-capped mountains at the horizon. Nearly half of Idaho’s population of 1.5 million lives in this remote corner of the state, known as the Treasure Valley, where tributaries like the Boise, Payette and Owyhee feed into the Snake River.

The region doesn’t have oil fields, or a lot of corporate headquarters, or foreign car plants. What it has is a little bit of this, a little bit of that: a major hospital and Boise State University; state government; tech firms large and small; plus timber, ranching, and potato farming.

And, lately, you can hear the sounds of hammers and nailguns on the outskirts of town.

The local economy has a pulse once more. Homebuilders that survived the recession and housing crash — which was as severe here as in other Western boom towns like Las Vegas and Phoenix — are putting up single-family homes again.

Boise Hunter Homes has several on the market in the Harris Ranch subdivision along the Boise River about 15 minutes from downtown. They’re nicely-appointed, three- to four-bedroom homes with hardwood floors, hickory cabinets, granite countertops, double-shower master baths. All starting in the low-$300,000-range.

All over the valley, builders are putting up starter homes, trade-up homes, and McMansions in suburban subdivisions that were platted and plumbed, then went to weeds, when housing went bust in the recession.

Dave Checkitts works for Idaho Hardwood Flooring on the Harris Ranch building site. “I’m making $16 an hour right now,” he says. “During the recession, when building stopped, I was doing whatever I could — delivering pizzas. Making ends meet was a hard thing to do. This is my trade, this is what I’m trained to do. Seeing this come back — you make a living wage.”

Construction is a virtuous cycle. Guys like Checkitts can go out for dinner, even buy a new truck, because lawyers and nurses and small-business owners are buying new homes again.

At the very least, working people are living less in fear of the economic apocalypse, now, says Marci Glass, pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise. Glass serves a neighborhood of lower-middle-class families living in modest ranch homes. Many are near retirement. She says the neighbors were in a world of hurt during the recession.

“A number of them have been dealing with foreclosures and unemployment — long-term unemployment,” says Glass. “Insecurity with jobs, whether at Micron or Hewlett-Packard, fear of layoffs: are they going to make it through the next round? I think there is a sense now that things are getting better for the parishioners that I serve.”

“Boise is very fortunate, Boise is growing,” says Bill Connors, chief local business booster, CEO of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce. He offers a visitor a ‘downtown- skyline-tour’ from the windows of his high-rise office: “If you look off to the left, you see two huge cranes going up. We’ve got a 20-story high-rise going up over here for Zion’s Bank, and a big project for the Simplot Corporation. We’re one of the fastest-recovering cities in the country, our regulatory environment is one of the best.”

Connors says companies like Boise — and Idaho — because of the quality of life, affordable housing, and laissez-faire business climate. “Last year, we lowered corporate income taxes and individual taxes,” Connors brags. “Not too many states are doing that right now.”

What’s happened here in Boise — unemployment dropping from 9.4 percent at its worst in mid-2010, down to just 6.2 percent in December of 2012 — isn’t miraculous. It’s steady growth of a diversified economy fueled by low interest rates, high technology, and local talent.

It helps to have a corporate heavyweight to anchor that growth. The 800-pound Fortune-500 gorilla here is Micron Technology, one of the top memory-chip-makers on the planet.

Company spokesman Daniel Francisco led this reporter on a tour of a new global research and development center on Micron’s sprawling glass-and-steel campus just minutes from downtown Boise. “This is what we call the sub-fab,” Francisco explained as we descended a flight of stairs under the 50,000-square-foot complex of gleaming new clean rooms full of technicians scurrying around in bunny suits. “We’re underneath where the R&D manufacturing’s occurring. You have the gas sources, power sources, drains here.”

Micron spent millions to build this new facility. Francisco says it will pump wages and wealth into the local economy. It will also attract highly educated scientists and engineers from San Francisco, Boston, Bangalore.

But Micron only employs around 5,000 people in Boise now. It used to employ 10,000. The company downsized in the recession, laying off thousands of high-paid production workers and managers from an outdated chip fab. Hewlett-Packard also shed workers in the past few years.

Bill Connors says some laid-off tech professionals picked up stakes and headed for bigger high-tech hubs with more job opportunities — the Bay Area, Seattle, Portland. “But what’s interesting,” says Connors, “is a lot of people didn’t want to leave. So they started up their own little start-ups here in town.”

One example: a cluster of new urban wineries that have opened in a cavernous warehouse in Garden City, a few minutes’ drive from downtown Boise. The décor at the Telaya, Cinder, and Coiled cellars is industrial chic. The wines they’re making are respectable reds and whites — appellation ‘Snake River Valley’—made with local grapes that like the cool winters and warm summers, along with a dry, sandy soil resembling some regions of California.

Winemakers Leslie Preston of Coiled and Melanie Krause of Cinder were both raised in Boise, traveled abroad after college, then settled down at top-flight wineries in California and Washington to learn their trade.

Krause says she had three criteria for coming back home to start a business and a family: “One was that I had to feel that I could make world-class wine here,” she says. “The second was business climate — and we thought there was a very good opportunity here. The third was lifestyle, and the lifestyle here is great.”

Krause’s husband, Joe Schnerr, used to be an analytical chemist at Micron Technology. Then came the great downsizing — he took a buyout and a pay cut. Now, he sells wine in the tasting room.

“This is a dry Viognier,” he says, introducing one of the winery’s specialties. “So you should have a bright, aromatic white wine, but it’s going to finish crisp. I think that shows the Snake River Valley in Idaho really well.”

So, another sound of success can be heard here, in the local wines being poured at hip downtown restaurants packed with prosperous urban professionals. People with discretionary income who are living it up and spending again.

Does a Healthy Economy Require Jobs?

January 28, 2013


At the IEDC Leadership Summit in Orlando this week, Jon Roberts will continue the conversation he began a year ago with his Future of Jobs Ignite presentation. The presentation discusses three perspectives (individual, firm, and policy) from which the term “job” can be defined to offer a historical context for our present conversation. In short, the term “job” as we understand it today suggests a specific employer-employee relationship that developed during the Industrial Revolution and has persisted over the last century.

Our notion of a “job,” however, assumes a relationship that is dissolving. Despite the gradual deconstruction of the employee-employer relationship, economic development professionals still use jobs as a metric for economic growth. If job creation is our objective, then whose job is it to create jobs? What roles should the public and private sectors play in job creation?

Jon argues that we are asking the wrong question. We should be asking: does a healthy economy even require jobs? No. Productivity is required, and that has been increasingly divorced from employment over the past 50 years. GDP per capita has more than doubled since 1960, while at the same time the share of the working age civilian population contributing to that GDP growth has increased only 4% overall in 50 years. Since 2000, the labor force participation rate has declined from its peak at 67.1% to its current rate of 63.7%.

If no one is responsible for creating jobs, and productivity is possible with fewer and fewer jobs over time, then we should ask: what are the conditions under which jobs are created? Or, more accurately, what are the conditions under which value is created? What does it mean for economic development organizations to support the creation of value? How should our evolving understanding of the labor market shape the practice of economic development?

Catch the Does a Healthy Economy Require Jobs? panel on Tuesday, January 29th, 11am-12:30pm.

Moderator: Raymond Gilley, Executive Counsel/Director, Thompson Wesley Wolfe, LLC, Orlando, FL
Maureen Collins-Williams, CDM, Director – Entrepreneurship Outreach and Regional Business Center, University of Northern Iowa, College of Business Administration, Cedar Falls, IA
Steve King, Partner, Emergent Research, Lafayette, CA
Heidi Pickman, Communications Director, California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity, San Francisco, CA
Jon M. Roberts, Managing Director, TIP Strategies, Inc., Austin, TX

Foreclosure Activity Drops to 5-Year Low in September

November 29, 2012

By: RealtyTrac Staff
Via: RealtyTrac

IRVINE, Calif. – Oct. 11, 2012 — RealtyTrac® (www.realtytrac.com), the leading online marketplace for foreclosure properties, today released its U.S. Foreclosure Market Report™ for September and the third quarter of 2012, which shows foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — were reported on 180,427 U.S. properties in September, a decrease of 7 percent from the previous month and down 16 percent from September 2011. September’s total was the lowest U.S. total since July 2007.

Foreclosure_Activity_Monthly_2007_2009_2012
The decrease in September helped drop the third quarter foreclosure numbers to the lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2007. Foreclosure filings were reported on 531,576 U.S. properties during the quarter, a decrease of 5 percent from the second quarter and a decrease of 13 percent from the third quarter of 2011 — the ninth consecutive quarter with an annual decrease in foreclosure activity. The report also shows one in every 248 U.S. housing units with a foreclosure filing during the quarter.

“We’ve been waiting for the other foreclosure shoe to drop since late 2010, when questionable foreclosure practices slowed activity to a crawl in many areas, but that other shoe is instead being carefully lowered to the floor and therefore making little noise in the housing market — at least at a national level,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “Make no mistake, however, the other shoe is dropping quite loudly in certain states, primarily those where foreclosure activity was held back the most last year.

“Meanwhile, several states where the foreclosure flow was not so dammed up last year could see a roller-coaster pattern in foreclosure activity going forward because of recent legislation or court rulings that substantively change the rules to properly foreclose,” Blomquist added. “A backlog of delayed foreclosures will likely build up in those states as lenders adjust to the new rules, with many of those delayed foreclosures eventually hitting down the road.”

Other high-level findings from the report

• The national decrease in September and the third quarter was driven mostly by sizable decreases in the non-judicial foreclosure states such as California, Georgia, Texas, Arizona and Michigan.

• Several judicial foreclosure states — including Florida, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey and New York — continued to buck the national trend, registering substantial year-over-year increases in foreclosure activity in September and the third quarter.

• U.S. foreclosure starts in the third quarter decreased both from the previous quarter and a year ago, reversing a bump in foreclosure starts in the second quarter.

• California foreclosure starts (NOD) in September decreased 18 percent from the previous month and were down 45 percent from a year ago to a 69-month low, although the state’s foreclosure rate still ranked in the top three for the month and quarter.

• Florida foreclosure starts (LIS) in September increased 24 percent on a year-over-year basis, the 11th consecutive month with an annual increase, and the state’s foreclosure rate ranked highest nationwide for the first time since April 2005.

Non-judicial states push national numbers lower

Of the 24 states where the non-judicial foreclosure process is primarily utilized, 20 reported annual decreases in foreclosure activity in the third quarter, including Nevada (71 percent decrease), Oregon (63 percent decrease), Utah (60 percent decrease), Virginia (34 percent decrease), California (29 percent decrease), Michigan (28 percent decrease), Arizona (23 percent decrease), Colorado (21 percent decrease), Georgia (20 percent decrease) and Texas (17 percent decrease).

Nevada, Oregon and California have all enacted legislation within the past year adding more requirements for lenders to properly foreclose, while a Georgia Court of Appeals ruling in July of this year requires lenders to provide certain information on foreclosure notices that some lenders may not have been including previously.

Washington state was one of only four non-judicial foreclosure states where foreclosure activity increased in the third quarter, up 70 percent from the previous quarter and up 15 percent from the third quarter of 2011. Washington state was one of the first non-judicial states to enact legislation impacting the foreclosure process following the so-called robo-signing controversy that came to light in October 2010. The state legislature passed a law that took effect in July 2011, requiring lenders to offer mediation to homeowners facing foreclosure.

Foreclosure_Activity_Annual_Changes_Top_20_States_Q3_2012
Judicial states buck national trend

Meanwhile, third quarter foreclosure activity increased on a year-over-year basis in 14 out of the 26 states with a primarily judicial foreclosure process, including New Jersey (130 percent increase), New York (53 percent increase), Indiana (36 percent increase), Pennsylvania (35 percent increase), Connecticut (34 percent increase), Illinois (31 percent increase), Maryland (28 percent increase), South Carolina (16 percent increase), North Carolina (14 percent increase), and Florida (14 percent increase).

Some notable exceptions where foreclosure activity in the third quarter decreased on annual basis in judicial foreclosure states included Massachusetts (16 percent decrease) and Wisconsin (12 percent decrease).

Foreclosure starts reverse upward trend

First-time foreclosure starts, either default notices or scheduled foreclosure auctions depending on the state’s foreclosure process, were filed on 284,720 U.S. properties during the third quarter, an 8 percent decrease from the second quarter and also an 8 percent decrease from the third quarter of 2011.

Nationwide foreclosure starts decreased on an annual basis for the second straight month in September following three straight months of annual increases. Foreclosures were started on 87,066 U.S. properties during the month, down 12 percent from August and down 15 percent from September 2011.

September foreclosure starts decreased on an annual basis in 31 states, including California (45 percent decrease), Arizona (34 percent decrease), Michigan (22 percent decrease), Georgia (21 percent decrease) and Texas (19 percent decrease).

States with the biggest annual increases in foreclosure starts in September included New Jersey (424 percent increase), Pennsylvania (134 percent increase), New York (95 percent increase), Washington (60 percent increase) and Florida (24 percent increase).

Florida, Arizona, California post top state foreclosure rates in third quarter

Florida foreclosure activity in the third quarter increased 14 percent from a year ago, the third consecutive quarter with an annual increase and boosting the state’s foreclosure rate to highest in the nation. One in every 117 Florida housing units had a foreclosure filing in the third quarter, more than twice the national average.

Florida’s foreclosure rate also ranked highest in the nation in September, the first time since April 2005 that Florida has held the No. 1 spot. Florida foreclosure starts in September increased 24 percent from a year ago — the 11th straight month with an annual increase — and Florida bank repossessions (REO) increased 23 percent year over year — the ninth straight month with an annual increase.

Arizona REOs in September increased 2 percent from a year ago, the first year-over-year increase in Arizona REOs since November 2011, but the state’s overall foreclosure activity was down on an annual basis both in September and the third quarter thanks to big drops in foreclosure starts. Despite those decreases, one in every 125 Arizona housing units had a foreclosure filing during the third quarter — the nation’s second highest state foreclosure rate.

California also posted a foreclosure rate of one in every 125 housing units with a foreclosure filing in the third quarter, but the state’s foreclosure rate was slightly lower than that of Arizona, ranking No. 3 among all states for the quarter. A total of 109,369 California properties had foreclosure filings during the quarter, the highest of any state but still down from the previous quarter and a year ago.

Days to foreclose at record 382 days, legislation extends process in some states

U.S. properties foreclosed in the third quarter took an average of 382 days to complete the foreclosure process, up from 378 days in the previous quarter and up from 336 days in the third quarter of 2011. It was the highest average number of days to foreclose going back to the first quarter of 2007.

The average time to complete a foreclosure increased substantially from a year ago in several states where recent legislation and court rulings have extended the foreclosure process. These states included Oregon (up 62 percent to 193 days), Hawaii (up 62 percent to 662 days), Washington (up 62 percent to 248 days) and Nevada (up 42 percent to 520 days).

The average time to foreclose decreased from a year ago in 15 states, including Arkansas (down 49 percent to 199 days), Michigan (down 15 percent to 226 days), Maryland (down 9 percent to 541 days), California (down 8 percent to 335 days), and New Jersey (down 4 percent to 931 days).

New Jersey documented the second longest state foreclosure timeline in the third quarter behind New York, where the average time to complete a foreclosure was 1,072 days for properties foreclosed during the quarter. Florida registered the third highest state foreclosure timeline, 858 days — down slightly from 861 days in the previous quarter — and Illinois registered the fourth highest state foreclosure timeline, 673 days.

Foreclosure_Timelines_Top_States_Q3_2012
Report Methodology
The RealtyTrac U.S. Foreclosure Market Report provides a count of the total number of properties with at least one foreclosure filing entered into the RealtyTrac database during the month and quarter — broken out by type of filing. Some foreclosure filings entered into the database during a month or quarter may have been recorded in previous months or quarters. Data is collected from more than 2,200 counties nationwide, and those counties account for more than 90 percent of the U.S. population. RealtyTrac’s report incorporates documents filed in all three phases of foreclosure: Default — Notice of Default (NOD) and Lis Pendens (LIS); Auction — Notice of Trustee Sale and Notice of Foreclosure Sale (NTS and NFS); and Real Estate Owned, or REO properties (that have been foreclosed on and repurchased by a bank). For the quarterly report, if more than one foreclosure document is received for a property during the quarter, only the most recent filing is counted in the report. Both the quarterly and monthly reports check if the same type of document was filed against a property previously. If so, and if that previous filing occurred within the estimated foreclosure timeframe for the state where the property is located, the report does not count the property again in the current month or quarter.

Report License

The RealtyTrac U.S. Foreclosure Market Report is the result of a proprietary evaluation of information compiled by RealtyTrac; the report and any of the information in whole or in part can only be quoted, copied, published, re-published, distributed and/or re-distributed or used in any manner if the user specifically references RealtyTrac as the source for said report and/or any of the information set forth within the report.