Real Estate

August foreclosures zoom

Sun Belt states catch up with Rust Belt states to lead mortgage delinquency rates, according to a monthly survey.

By Les Christie,

NEW YORK ( -- Late summer brought no relief from soaring foreclosures. The number of homes in some stage of default jumped 36 percent month-over-month in August, according to a regular monthly survey.

Delinquencies and defaults more than doubled year over year to 243,947, according to August figures released Tuesday by RealtyTrac, a marketer of foreclosed properties. RealtyTrac's forecast is for total foreclosure filings to exceed 2 million this year.

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"The jump in foreclosure filings this month might be the beginning of the next wave of increased foreclosure activity, as a large number of subprime adjustable rate loans are beginning to reset now," James Saccacio, chief executive of RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

October is expected to be a peak month for hybrid adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) to reset, with the interest rates on some $50 billion worth of loans poised to go up dramatically.

In the past few months, the foreclosure story has become a tale of two regions. Some of the hardest-hit states have traditionally been in the Midwest, where plant closings and job losses have hit the economy there hard.

The other region is the Sun Belt, which is showing even more significant foreclosure growth as out-sized price increases in the first half of the decade led to virtually unchecked real estate speculation.

Nevada led all the other states in the rate of August foreclosure filings: one for every 165 households for a total of 6,197. Other hard-hit, Sun Belt states were California (one in 224), Florida (one in 243), Georgia (one in 271), Arizona (one in 289), Colorado (one in 312) and Texas (one in 532).

Rust Belt states in the top 10 included Ohio (one in 281), Michigan (one in 288) and Indiana (one in 544).

California placed six cities among the top 10 metro areas for the number of filings. Modesto led the way with one of every 79 households. Stockton, Merced, Vallejo-Fairfield, Riverside-San Bernardino and Sacramento also hit the top 10. Detroit, Cleveland, Ft. Lauderdale and Las Vegas rounded out the list of worst hit metro areas.

California, by far the most populous state, also led the nation in the actual number of foreclosures. Some 57,975 households were in some stage of default during the month. Florida was next with 33,932 and Ohio, with 17,793, was third.

Saccacio also pointed out that many more of the delinquent homes are winding up back in the hands of the lenders under the designation REO (real estate owned) properties.

When borrowers can't catch up on their mortgages, their homes are often sold before the actual foreclosure takes place. Even if they go on to the next step in the process - auction - they may not draw higher enough bids for lenders to accept the sales. In that event, they return to the banks as REO properties.

When housing markets were hot, many delinquent borrowers escaped actual foreclosure because their home equity had grown enough so that it well exceeded the amount of the loan's debt. That enabled them to sell their properties at a profit or refinance and use the money to pay off past loans.

Because of the housing slump, far fewer homeowners are in that position today. Indeed, many are underwater, owing more on their mortgages than the homes are worth. All told, fewer borrowers have the resources they need to work out their debts without being foreclosed on. Top of page