Foreclosure activity in Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith metro area was mixed in August, according to Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac.
Benton and Washington counties had 136 foreclosure filings last month, down 28% from the prior month. Also In August, foreclosures rose 21% in Benton County from a year ago, while filings decreased 34% in Washington County compared to August 2012.
Jim Long, agent with Crye-Leike Real Estate, said the foreclosure listings have slowed somewhat in recent weeks. He said there are 373 foreclosed homes for sale in the Multiple Listing Service, which includes Northwest Arkansas as well as Crawford and Sebastian counties.
Foreclosure listings are down from 393 last month, but still considerably higher than six months ago, when the MLS showed 222 foreclosures for sale.
Long sald in the past 10 days there have been 44 new listings of foreclosure.
“The good ones are sold fast,” he said.
In the Fort Smith area, the two counties reported 30 new foreclosure listings in August. In Crawford County, the 7 filings last month were down sharply from July and 12% lower than a year ago.
Sebastian County had 33 new filings in August, up 37% from the prior month and year-ago period.
Statewide, foreclosure filings rose 16% from a year ago with 638 new cases reported in August. Arkansas ranked No. 33 in foreclosure activity, down several places from prior months.
Throughout the U.S. foreclosure activity taped downward in August, led by fewer starts which are triggered by defaults. RealtyTrac reported 128,560 U.S. properties were in one of the three phases of foreclosure last month. That equates to one in every 1,019 homes.
Bank repossessions rose slowly in the four counties covered in this report, following a national trend. Local real estate agents agree that banks are slowing putting their backlog of foreclosed properties on the market and expect this will continue into next spring.
“The foreclosure floodwaters have receded in most parts of the country, but lenders and communities continue to clean up the damage left behind, which means the recent uptick in bank repossessions is a trend that will likely continue into next year,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “Meanwhile foreclosure flash floods will continue to hit some markets over the next few months as delayed foreclosure starts are quickly pushed into the pipeline.”
Economists with Wells Fargo Securities give housing a positive outlook, diminishing the impact of foreclosures through 2014. They site low overall home inventories and pent-up buyer demand which is pushing home values higher.
Real estate agents across the region concur with the Wells Fargo positive assessment. In Northwest Arkansas, agents report strong sales, heightened activity which is producing multiple offers and higher overall prices. Realtor Clif Warnock, principal broker at Warnock Real Estate in Fort Smith, said the recent jump in local home sales was due to increasing interest rates.
"The difference has been movement in those interest rates. It's not been good that interest rates have gone up slightly, but any movement in interest rates prompt people to take action," he said.
With interest rates still near historic lows, many buyers are not only jumping due to the expected rise in interest rates, but they are also jumping to buy more home at a lower monthly cost, Warnock said.
The agents were quick to put the foreclosures into perspective as they make up just a tiny fraction of the overall markets in Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith metro area.
In the Fort Smith area 0.06% of the households are distressed and facing possible foreclosure. Sebastian County has roughly 54,200 households. In Crawford County that distressed rate was 0.03% of its 25,790 households.
Benton County reports 0.04% of its 92,000 households are facing foreclosure. In Washington County foreclosures accounts for 0.06% of 86,500 households.