BRADENTON -- One Realtor calls it “the quiet before the storm.”
The “storm” is the flurry of foreclosed homes expected to saturate the market soon with word today that foreclosure filings in Manatee County increased 75 percent from March to April.
The “quiet” is the relative lack of homes for sale: 2,366 as of April 2011, the lowest number in at least a year.
“If those foreclosed homes are all stockpiled, at some point they’re going to all be on the market, and that’s going to further decrease the price of homes,” says May Aston, a Realtor with ReMax Alliance Group who has been working with foreclosure sales since 1991. “And that’s not what we want. We want to stabilize, and you can’t stabilize if you keep getting clumped on the market.”
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RealtyTrac, a nationwide foreclosure tracking service, released monthly figures today that show 384 Manatee County homes either received default notices, were scheduled for foreclosure auctions or were repossessed by banks in April. That’s 75.3 percent more foreclosure filings than the county saw in March, RealtyTrac said.
“Ultimately, it’s up to lenders as to how quickly they will list the foreclosed properties for sale,” said Daren Blomquist, director of marketing communications for RealtyTrac. “But I would say you could see a fairly quick impact because typically, in the current environment, lenders will not complete the foreclosure unless they are able to handle the maintenance and marketing of the properties they are foreclosing on.”
Yet, Aston and other Realtors say they’ve been waiting, in vain, for foreclosed properties to start hitting the market for months. Instead, the number of properties for sale is down more than 30 percent from a year ago, from 3,382 in April 2010 to 2,366 in April 2011, according to the Manatee Association of Realtors.
“They’re just not on the market yet,” says Nikki Smith, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker. “Especially the last two weeks, it’s been pretty slow. Right now, it’s almost like we don’t have any inventory.”
“I’m kind of baffled about it myself,” Aston says. “We’re being told we should see a big increase sometime this year, but it’s already May. When will it happen? Your guess is as good as mine.”
The lack of homes for sale is creating a seller’s market, Aston says, when the high rate of foreclosures should be creating a buyer’s market. “When we do get a property on the market, there’s five or six offers out there at a time. Then there’s a bidding war, which drives the price up.”
Smith says she suspects that the increased involvement of attorneys may be keeping even foreclosed properties from going on the market. “People have become very savvy. They’ve found all kinds of ways to make sure they stay in their house. Attorneys are involved. It’s a mess, a battle, a war zone.”
Manatee County’s statistics run counter to the national and statewide trend. Throughout the country, RealtyTrac reported, foreclosure filings are down almost 9 percent. In Florida, the situation was pretty stagnant, with a drop of less than one-third of one percent in foreclosure filings.
But RealtyTrac warned against reading too much into those figures. “This slowdown continues to be largely the result of massive delays in processing foreclosures rather than the result of a housing recovery that is lifting people out of foreclosure,” said James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac’s chief executive officer.
Manatee County’s 75 percent increase in foreclosure actions was the fifth-highest increase among Florida’s 67 counties. Only Hendry, Jackson, Osceola, and Sumter counties showed higher rates of increase. Among the three categories of foreclosure actions -- default notices, scheduled auctions and actual repossessions -- default notices actually decreased 11 percent in Manatee County.
By contrast, scheduled auctions increased 144 pecent, Blomquist said, and completed foreclosures increased 355 percent. Blomquist also emphasized that overall, foreclosure actions in Manatee County decreased 63 percent from a year ago.
Christine Hawes, Bradenton Herald business writer, can be reached at 745-7081.