Foreclosures up by 81% in U.S.

Home is going to have to be where the heart is as there wont be any other place to live.

Foreclosures rose 81% in 2008, ensnaring 2.3 million U.S. households during the year, according to RealtyTrac Inc. data released today.

The Irvine, Calif.-based foreclosure Web site said December filings rose 17% from November and by 41% from December 2007 levels.

Michigan ranked sixth nationwide with 145,365 filings on 106,058 properties, up 21.6% from 2007 and up 107.9% from 2006, RealtyTrac said.

And Wayne County fell to 10th place from first place for 2007 with 38,106 foreclosure filings, down 7.7% from 2007. The rest of metro Detroit, including Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, Lapeer and Livingston counties, ranked in 25th place with 30,817 filings, up 42.6% from 2007.

The big jump in December foreclosure activity was somewhat surprising given the moratorium enacted by both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and lender programs meant to delay foreclosure actions against distressed homeowners, said James J. Saccacio, chief executive of RealtyTrac.

Nevada, Florida and Arizona had the highest foreclosure rates in 2008, while California had the highest number of properties with a foreclosure filing at 523,624.

While Michigan has had flat foreclosure activity for a few months, it is too early to say whether the state has hit bottom, said RealtyTrac spokesman Daren Blomquist. “The one thing that makes me hesitant to say it will continue on that trend is we are seeing the higher unemployment rate and that could spark some more foreclosures,” he said.

Michigan’s unemployment rate was 9.6% in November.

Bank repossessions rose 19.3% to 55,801 in Michigan last year compared with 46,780 in 2007, Blomquist said. “People had fewer options to refinance. The credit crunch combined with lowering home values really gave people fewer options to avoid foreclosure,” he said.

Blomquist said that bank repossessions in November declined by 8% nationwide and by 2% in Michigan, showing the possible impact of the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae moratorium for the holidays.

But when that artificial cap is lifted Jan. 31, many expect a flood of bank repossessions as distressed homeowners are unable to pay their mortgages.

“Once the 31st comes, I have heard that we will get triple the number of foreclosures,” said Joe Dakroub, owner and broker of Dearborn-based ERA Dynasty.

There are some good signs for the start of a turnaround in 2009, said Alexis McGee, president of, a Sacramento, Calif.-based Web site.

Housing affordability is better than it’s been in years, mortgage rates are low, minimal new housing construction and a growing U.S. population will inch up demand and unemployment is still below the highs of the early 1980s.

McGee said that Michigan bank repossessions have leveled off at roughly 5,000 per month in recent months.

“What I’m looking at right now is a stabilizing of the Michigan area based on foreclosure filings today,” McGee said. “But if we have big unemployment in Michigan, that will change.”

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