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Why foreclosures were up in Minnesota, but down nationwide

  • Blog Post by: Jim Buchta
  • May 17, 2012 - 2:38 PM

RealtyTrac said Thursday that while foreclosure activity was down across the country during April, it was up in Minnesota and several other states. “Rising foreclosure activity in many state and local markets in April was masked at the national level by sizable decreases in hard-hit foreclosure states like California, Arizona and Nevada,” according to Brandon Moore, RealtyTrac’s CEO.

In Minnesota, foreclosure activity increased 11 percent from March to April and was up 3 percent from last year. Those increases were a contrast to a nationwide decline of 5 percent from the previous month and 15 percent from last year. One in every 698 U.S. housing units had a foreclosure filing during the month compared with only one in every 860 households in Minnesota, which has consistently been among the lowest in the nation.

Because Minnesota is one of several states that doesn’t require judicial approval, lenders can typically process foreclosures more quickly than those states that have such a requirement. Aside from such legal differences from state to state, there are a number of reasons why foreclosures are down across the country. New laws impose daunting fines for lenders that bungle a foreclosure proceeding, so many lenders are now embracing short sales as a way to avoid such penalties. Several states have radically streamlined the foreclosure process, resulting in fewer “catch-up” foreclosures. And finally, an improving economy is helping more homeowners avoid foreclosure altogether.

The report tracks a variety of foreclosure-related notices, including foreclosure warnings along with actual foreclosure sales. From state to state both measures have been uneven, largely depending on foreclosure laws in those states and the status of dominant lenders in those states. Some say that means that the state is likely to burn through its inventory of distressed sales more quickly than states where the process takes longer. In fact, activity was down 29 percent in non-judicial states, though Minnesota was one of only seven such states that posted an annual increase.

Last week Twin Cities-based HousingLink said that from January though March in Minnesota there were 4,836 sheriff’s sales, or 10 percent fewer than the same quarter last year, the lowest level since 2007. The report also noted that there are still some counties where the problem is getting worse. Dan Hylton, HousingLink’s research manager, who said that while the trend is positive, he warned that the number of people who have lost their home is still nearly four times higher than the 1,618 quarterly average posted in 2005. He said that declines in foreclosure sales have been strongest in the Twin Cities metro, which posted a 11.5 percent decline compared with a 7.4 percent decline in outstate counties.

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