Economy Watch: Residential Foreclosures Still Slowing Down

RealtyTrac reports that foreclosure filings are down 8 percent month-over-month, and DataQuick details a slow down in the SoCal home sale market.

On Thursday foreclosure specialist RealtyTrac released its U.S. Foreclosure Market Report for January 2014, which found that foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repos, all together — were reported on 124,419 U.S. properties in January. That’s an 8 percent increase from December (a month during which foreclosures are sometimes put off), but down 18 percent from January 2013. The report also shows that one in every 1,058 U.S. housing units had a foreclosure filing during the month.

January marked the 40th consecutive month where U.S. foreclosure activity declined on an annual basis, but the annual decline in January 2014 was the smallest one month decline since September 2012, RealtyTrac said. Also, the 8 percent monthly increase was the biggest month-over-month increase since May 2012. The wave of foreclosures hasn’t quite washed through in many parts of the country, in other words.

“The monthly increase in January foreclosure activity was somewhat expected after a holiday lull, but the sharp annual increases in some states shows that many states are not completely out of the woods when it comes to cleaning up the wreckage of the housing bust,” RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist notes in a statement.

He added that the foreclosure rebound pattern isn’t only showing up in judicial states like New Jersey, where foreclosure activity reached a 40-month high in January, but also some non-judicial states like California, where foreclosure starts jumped 57 percent from a year ago.

SoCal Home Sales Down

San Diego-based real estate data specialist DataQuick reported on Wednesday that the bellwether Southern California residential market logged its lowest January home sales in three years, as buyers continued to face tight inventories, along with the highest prices in years. A total of 14,471 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino, and Orange counties last month, down 21.4 percent from December, and down 9.9 percent compared with January 2013.

Foreclosure resales accounted for 6.6 percent of the Southland resale market in January. That was up slightly from 5.8 percent in December, but down from 17.2 percent a year earlier. Short sales made up an estimated 12.2 percent of SoCal resales last month, down from 13.1 percent in December and down from 24.2 percent a year earlier.

The local economy is growing, but regional home sales have fallen on a year-over-year basis for four consecutive months now and remain well below average.

“Two of the bigger questions hanging over the housing market right now are, ‘How much pent-up demand is left out there?’ and, ‘Will inventory skyrocket this year as more owners take advantage of the price run-up?’ ” DataQuick president John Walsh notes in a statement. “Unfortunately, we’ll probably have to wait until spring for the answers.”

Wall Street wobbled around all day on Wednesday and ended mixed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 30.83 points, or 1.19 percent, and the S&P 500 was down 0.03 percent. The Nasdaq advanced 0.24 percent.