Foreclosures Still on the Rise

Foreclosure data specialist RealtyTrac reported on Thursday that U.S. foreclosure filings, a category that includes default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, were up 7 percent in the first quarter of 2010 compared with the previous quarter, and 16 percent higher than during the first quarter of 2009.

April 16, 2010
By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user pnwra

Foreclosure data specialist RealtyTrac reported on Thursday that U.S. foreclosure filings, a category that includes default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, were up 7 percent in the first quarter of 2010 compared with the previous quarter, and 16 percent higher than during the first quarter of 2009.

As for the monthly totals, foreclosure filings were reported on 367,056 properties in March, an increase of nearly 19 percent from the previous month, and up nearly 8 percent from March 2009. It was the highest monthly total since RealtyTrac began issuing its report in January 2005. The top states for foreclosure were the usual suspects: California, Florida, Arizona. Interestingly, Nevada dropped to number eight on the list.

“Foreclosure activity in the first quarter of 2010 followed a very similar pattern to what we saw in the first quarter of 2009: a shallow trough in January and February followed by a substantial spike in March,” RealtyTrac CEO James J. Saccacio said in a statement. “One difference, however, is that the increases were more tilted toward the final stage of foreclosure, with REOs increasing 9 percent on a quarterly basis in the first quarter of 2010, compared to a 13 percent quarterly decrease in REOs in the first quarter of 2009.”

Toberman Headed for the Slammer

Once upon a time, back in that hard-to-imagine time called the 1990s, a developer in Chicago proposed building the world’s tallest building, to reclaim the title from the upstart Petronas Towers in Malaysia. It was to be 112 stories (a total that Dubai laughs at these days). The Chicago developer wasn’t the first to propose this kind of project, nor the last; but he might be the only world’s-tallest dreamer to spend time in the big house.

The developer was Scott K. Toberman, and a federal judge sentenced him to five years and four months in prison on Thursday. His crime didn’t have anything to do with his vision for world’s tallest building–which was never built–but rather wire fraud associated with his plan to walk off with about $2 million belonging to his investors.

In July, Toberman pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Chicago to the charge as part of a plea agreement. He will report to prison after the Fourth of July holiday.

Homebuilders Feeling a Little More Optimistic

The latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released on Thursday, noted that builder confidence in the market for new single-family homes has improved four points to 19, its highest level since September 2009. The HMI gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor,” and also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.”

An index over 50 means that more builders see conditions as good rather than poor. So while the improvement might be a good sign, it’s still a long slog to genuine optimism for homebuilders.

Wall Street had a bouncy day on Thursday, but eventually ended in the win column, just barely. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 21.46 points, or 0.19 percent, while the S&P 500 eked out a 0.08 percent rise. The Nasdaq was up 0.43 percent.