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Published: Thursday, 1/15/2009

Area rank in home seizures improves

FROM BLADE STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES

Toledo dropped to the 29th worst metropolitan area in the nation for foreclosures last year from 19th a year earlier.

Nearly one in 38 homes in Lucas, Wood, Fulton, and Ottawa counties was at some stage in the foreclosure process last year, according to figures released today by the online tracking service, RealtyTrac Inc.

Nationally, more than 2.3 million homeowners faced foreclosure proceedings in 2008, an 81 percent increase from 2007, with the worst yet to come as consumers grapple with layoffs, shrinking investment portfolios, and falling home prices, the report said.

More than 860,000 properties were actually repossessed by lenders, more than double the 2007 level, RealtyTrac said.

"The foreclosure-prevention programs implemented to date have not had any real success in slowing down this foreclosure tsunami," James Saccacio, chief executive of RealtyTrac, said in written comments.

"State legislation that slowed down the onset of new foreclosure activity clearly had an effect on fourth-quarter numbers overall, but that effect appears to have worn off by December."

The percentage of homes in foreclosure locally rose to 2.5 percent from about 2 percent in 2007, the report said.

However, the city's overall ranking improved because of deteriorating conditions in other parts of the country, the figures show.

Among states, Michigan was ranked 6th worst in the country for such activity, with 2.4 percent of homes in foreclosure. Ohio followed, at 2.3 percent.

RealtyTrac counts bank default notices, auction sale notices, and actual repossessions in its numbers.

Moody's Economy.com, a research firm, predicts the number of homes lost to foreclosure is likely to rise by another 18 percent this year before tapering off slightly through 2011.

"Hitting bottom is a lot different than coming off the bottom," said Christopher Thornberg, a principal with Beacon Economics in Los Angeles.

The worst-hit areas were in Sunbelt states where the real estate bubble grew the biggest.

Among cities outside California, Nevada, Florida, and Arizona, Detroit fared worst, in 10th place, with 4.5 percent of homes in foreclosure.

Ohio, which was largely bypassed by skyrocketing housing values that affected many areas of the country, had four cities in the top 30 including Cleveland, with 2.9 percent of homes in foreclosure; Akron and Toledo, with 2.7 percent; and Columbus, with 2.5 percent.



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