Foreclosure activity remains tepid, prices rebound

story by Kim Souza
ksouza@thecitywire.com

One year ago the foreclosure pipeline in Arkansas was slammed shut for out-of-state lenders because of federal litigation. The months that followed were tough for some businesses like newspapers that lost ad revenue as well as legal agents conducting sales.

Since the pipeline opened in April, agents have kept a close eye on any negative impact this stream of distressed properties would have on a recovering home market. But the stream has yet to begin, properties continue to trickle back into the marketplace with little to no impact on pricing.

Across Arkansas there were 524 new foreclosure filings in October compared to 526 a year ago, according to RealtyTrac.com.

“We continued to see vastly different foreclosure trends across the country in October, depending primarily on how each state’s foreclosing infrastructure was able to handle the high volume of delinquent loans during the worst of the foreclosure crisis in 2010,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac.

In Benton County, RealtyTrac reports 95 foreclosure filings in October, essentially even with the 96 filings reported a year ago. At the same time median home prices in Benton County have risen from $113,000 in October 2011 to $152,455 a year later.

The story was very similar in Washington County with 38 foreclosure filings in October, slashed in half from the 88 reported a year ago. Median home prices in the county have also risen and are now at $140,000.

Agents like Vickie Briolat with Crye-Leike Real Estate in Bentonville say the market and homeowners each came out winners with fewer foreclosures in the past year.

Briolat said there are 248 HUD and bank-owned property listings in the Multiple Listing Service which includes Crawford and Sebastian counties. This is a very small part of the estimated 5,000 residential listings in the multiple county area.

One word of caution Briolat gives is a rise in the number of approved short sale listings and proposed short sale listings. When adding these to the HUD and bank-owned property there are 558 properties deemed as distressed.

This number has increased in recent months in part because banks are more apt to work with distressed borrowers than they were just a couple of years ago.

She said to get a short sale approved, homeowners have to prove they can’t afford the home. An increase in this dynamic is an indication the market still has some recovery left to complete.

In the Fort Smith market, RealtyTrac reported 11 new foreclosure filings in October. Foreclosure activity dropped 73.17% from a year ago. In neighboring Crawford County there were 17 new filings compared to 27 a year ago.

Home prices in both of these counties have also rebounded in the past year, with less foreclosures competing in the market.

Sebastian County had a median sales price of $120,000 in October, up from $114,000 a year ago. In Crawford County, median home prices jumped to $132,500 in October, up from $107,950 in the year-ago period, according to MountData.com

Bankers in the Fort Smith market say the recent job losses in the area haven’t really shown up in more loan delinquencies perhaps because consumers had been preparing for the high profile plant closures and layoffs for a couple of years.

OCTOBER FORECLOSURE FILINGS
Northwest Arkansas (Properties in the foreclosure process)
Benton County
2012: 95
2011: 96
-1.04%

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Washington
2012: 38
2011: 88
-56.82%

Fort Smith Region
Crawford County
2012: 17
2011: 27
-37.04%

Sebastian County
2012: 11
2011: 41
-73.17%

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