Florida metro areas lead nation in foreclosures, delinquencies

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The greater Miami area led the nation in the percentage of homeowners who are in foreclosure or have fallen more than 90 days behind on their mortgage payment, a national review of 366 metropolitan areas released Wednesday indicates, reports Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida.

Prompted by tumbling property values and a large number of sub-prime loans, Florida has also been slow to get back on its feet because of a foreclosure process that on average takes more than two years to complete, according to report by a Washington –based coalition that is tracking the nation’s housing recovery.

Miami-Dade/ Fort Lauderdale/Pompano Beach had the distinction of having the highest foreclosure rate and the highest percentage of delinquent loans in December, according to figures compiled by Foreclosure-Response.org, a Washington-based advocacy group that tracks the industry.

During the month, the Miami metropolitan area had a foreclosure rate of 18.9 percent. Add to that the percentage of mortgages more than 90 days late and the figure jumps to 23.6 percent, nearly one in four mortgages.

Florida cities captured nine out of the top 10 slots on both foreclosures and delinquencies for the month, a dubious honor attained, at least in part, by foreclosure statutes that require judicial review of all cases, the group concluded.

On the foreclosure front, Florida held the top five spots, with Miami being followed by Port St. Lucie (16.7 percent), Palm Coast (16.6 percent), Tampa (15.9 percent) and Orlando (15.6 percent.)

“The high and growing foreclosure rate reflects a buildup of homes that are stalled in the foreclosure process,” the report stated. “According to data from LPS Applied Analytics, foreclosure starts continue to outpace foreclosure sales and the foreclosure rate will remain high until these properties fully complete the foreclosure process.”

Like other large cities around the country, Florida’s metropolitan areas have seen a steady uptick in foreclosures over the past few years, a trend that may escalate as new cases wind their way into the courts.

Lenders who halted foreclosure proceedings amid the robo-signing investigations are now resuming their efforts to get rid of troubled properties.

Florida continues to outpace the largest 100 cities, with foreclosure rates nearly three times higher. While the rate of large cities has been roughly 1.8 percent, the rate has risen 5.9 percentage points in Miami. Other Florida cities have also outpaced national norms with rates climbing 5.4 points in Orlando and 5.1 points in Jacksonville.

One major factor contributing to the backlog is Florida requires a judge to be involved in foreclosure proceedings, a requirement that has slowed the foreclosure process in Florida and other states that require judicial review.

In Florida, the average foreclosure takes more than 800 days to complete, a figure more than three times larger than what industry observers say is an adequate duration to protect homeowner interests and get troubled property back on the market.

Recent attempts to remove judges from the equation have been offered but failed to garner the legislative support needed to pass. As such, the state will continue to experience longer than average foreclosure times, the group concluded.

“This year Florida re-hired retired judges to help sort through the backlog of foreclosures,” the group concluded. “However, the future still remains unclear in Florida and other judicial states.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.