Most Metro Areas Suffering More Foreclosures Than Last Year

According to foreclosure specialist RealtyTrac, 154 of the 206 U.S. metro areas with populations of at least 200,000 saw more foreclosure activity during the first half of 2010 as they did in 2009. Slightly more optimistically, however, foreclosure activity decreased in nine of the 10 metros with the highest foreclosure rates.

July 30, 2010
By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user respres

According to foreclosure specialist RealtyTrac, 154 of the 206 U.S. metro areas with populations of at least 200,000 saw more foreclosure activity during the first half of 2010 as they did in 2009. Slightly more optimistically, however, foreclosure activity decreased in nine of the 10 metros with the highest foreclosure rates.

“We’re seeing early signs that foreclosure activity may have peaked in some of the hardest-hit markets,” James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac CEO, said in a statement. “[But] the fragile stability achieved in many local housing markets hinges on improvements in the underlying economy, specifically job growth. If unemployment remains persistently high and foreclosure prevention efforts only delay the inevitable, then we could continue to see increased foreclosure activity and a corresponding weakness in home prices in many metro areas.”

Las Vegas is still the foreclosure champ, but even Vegas saw a decrease in activity between 1H09 and 1H10. During the first half of this year, the metro area saw 6.6 percent of its housing units (one in 15) receiving a foreclosure filing, more than five times the national average. A total of 53,525 Las Vegas properties received a foreclosure filing during the six-month period, a decrease of nearly 15 percent from the previous six months and a decrease of nearly 9 percent from the first half of 2009.

Citigroup Settles SEC Subprime Charges

Citigroup agreed on Thursday to settle Securities and Exchange Commission claims that it put on a happy, lying face to regulators and shareholders regarding its holdings of mass amounts of subprime mortgage investments in the summer and fall of 2007. Those holdings were a ticking bomb, and then an exploding one, necessitating government intervention to save the too-big-to-fail financial institution.

Specifically, the SEC charged that “in response to intense investor interest on the topic, Citigroup repeatedly made misleading statements in earnings calls and public filings about the extent of its holdings of assets backed by subprime mortgages. Between July and mid-October 2007, Citigroup represented that subprime exposure in its investment banking unit was $13 billion or less, when in fact it was more than $50 billion.”

And how much did Citigroup, whose net 2Q10 income was $2.7 billion, have to pay for these SEC-alleged misdeeds, without admitting or denying them? The company will pay a $75 million penalty, while former CFO Gary Crittenden agreed to pay $100,000 and former head of investor relations Arthur Tildesley Jr. (currently the head of cross marketing at Citigroup) agreed to pay $80,000. Wrist, meet slap.

The Next Frontier in Retail Development: Charging Stations

California might have a lot on its plate these days, but some public entities still seem to have a longer-term view. In a decision that certainly will affect patterns of energy usage and production of greenhouse gases–but which might also change patterns of real estate development, once that starts again–the California Public Utilities Commission said on Thursday that electric-car charging stations will not be regulated as investor-owned utilities. That will allow for a much proliferation of such stations.

California is likely to be a major market for electric vehicles during the ’10s. Companies such as Better Place, Coulomb Technologies and Ecotality Inc. are already poised to install charging stations statewide in both private and public locations, such as multifamily residential properties and retail locations.

Wall Street had a roller-coaster of a day on Thursday, with the indices eventually ending slightly down. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 30.72 points, or 0.29 percent, while the S&P 500 was down 0.42 percent and the Nasdaq declined 0.57 percent.