Foreclosures: How bad is your city?

Foreclosures are easing in some of the worst hit metro areas, but watch out for the next wave of filings to start crashing in unexpected cities.

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By Les Christie, staff writer

Hot or not?
Where foreclosures are heating up -- and cooling off -- in the 20 biggest U.S. cities.
Rank Metro area Foreclosure filing rate (One in # of homes) Change from first half of 2008
1 Seattle 107 +72%
2 Minneapolis 90 +58.6%
3 Phoenix 22 +51.7%
4 Miami 28 +40.9%
5 Tampa 39 +31.5%
6 Chicago 59 +30.3%
7 Los Angeles 42 +29.9%
8 Riverside 17 +11.8%
9 Atlanta 49 +11.5%
10 San Francisco 52 +8.7%
11 San Diego 37 -0.1%
12 Philadelphia 168 -6%
13 Washington 73 -9.6
14 Dallas 131 -16.5%
15 Detroit 54 -16.4%
16 St. Louis 127 -21.2%
17 Baltimore 212 -22.5%
18 New York 211 -23.5%
19 Houston 153 -31.3%
20 Boston 144 -40.7%
Source: RealtyTrac
Lured back to prime neighborhoods
Thanks to sinking home prices, these 5 homebuyers were able to score deals in areas they couldn't previously afford.
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NEW YORK ( -- Sun Belt cities dominated the list of metro areas with the biggest foreclosure problems during the first six months of 2009.

Cities in just four states -- California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada -- captured 29 of the top 30 places with the highest foreclosure rates, according to a report issued by RealtyTrac on Thursday. Greeley, Colo., was the only outsider, coming in at 29th.

The good news is that some of the worst hit spots, such as the Central Valley cities in California, showed some improvement, according to James Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac.

"There are some significant differences beginning to show up in the data," he said. "Some of the markets that had the highest saturation of foreclosures over the past few years have seen declining rates."

But we could also be in a lull before the third wave of foreclosures hits, according to Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac's spokesman. The first wave was triggered by the subprime mortgage meltdown. The second wave was caused by layoffs and other economic fallout from the subprime meltdown. "The third wave," said Sharga, "will be the fallout from the option-ARM resets over the next several months."

Where it's getting worse

Many cities with populations larger than one million experienced rapid increases in foreclosure during the past six months. Seattle, for example, wasn't the worst hit city, but it experienced the biggest increase in the rate of filings. While a relatively small 1 in 107 homes received notices, that is a 72% jump compared with the same period a year ago. In second place was Minneapolis, where the filing rate grew by 58.6% to 1 in 90 homes; Phoenix spiked 51.7% to 1 in 22.

But some big cities showed substantial improvement. Filings in Greater New York fell 23.5% (1 in 211), and tumbled 40.7% in Boston (1 in 144) and 31.3% in Houston (1 in 153)

Taking the title of foreclosure capital is Las Vegas, which surpassed Stockton, Calif., for the honors. Stockton, which is 80 miles east of San Francisco, wore the crown for all of 2008.

Vegas, with a whopping 1 in 13 properties receiving a foreclosure filing during the first six months of 2009, is six times worse than the national average of 1 in 84. The number grew 56% since the first half of 2008.

The Cape Coral-Ft. Myers, Fla., area was second with 1 in 14 homes. California posted six cities in the top 10 list, with Merced coming in third at 1 in 15 homes being in trouble.

The Rust Belt, however, may have put the worst of its foreclosure problems behind it. Now even economically devastated Detroit recorded only 1 in 54 properties receiving filings. That's a 16% decline over the first half of 2008.

Cleveland, one of the first cities to get whacked, has also improved and is now ranked only 56th among all U.S. metro areas. The city was once home to the nation's hardest hit neighborhood -- Slavic Village -- but filings are now just 1 for every 73 homes, a 30% decline.

Inversely, Chicago, which had not previously suffered from the foreclosure blight, has pushed up 30% from last year to 39th place among cities. That equates to 1 in every 59 homes having a black mark. To top of page

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