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U.S. Foreclosure Activity Drops To 16-Year Low In 2020

Foreclosures in the United States hit a 16-year low in 2020, according to a report published by  ATTOM Data Solutions.

The report shows default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, and foreclosures – all of which were reported down 57% from 2019 and 93% from the peak in 2010. It’s also the lowest number since 2005, when the company began tracking data.

The 214,323 properties with foreclosure filings in 2020 represented 0.16 percent of all U.S. housing units, down from 0.36 percent in 2019 and down from a peak of 2.23% in 2010.

2020 Year-End Historical Foreclosure Activity & Rates

ATTOM’s year-end foreclosure report provides a unique count of properties with a foreclosure filing during the year based on publicly recorded and published foreclosure filings collected in more than 2,200 counties nationwide, with address-level data on nearly 25 million foreclosure filings historically, also available for license or customized reporting. See full methodology below.

The report also includes new data for December 2020, showing there were 10,876 U.S. properties with foreclosure filings, up 8 percent from the previous month but down 80 percent from a year ago.

From the press release:

“The government’s moratoria have effectively stopped foreclosure activity on everything but vacant and abandoned properties. There is a backlog of foreclosures building up – loans that were in foreclosure prior to the moratoria; loans that would have defaulted under normal circumstances; and loans whose borrowers are in financial distress due to the pandemic,” said Rick Sharga, Executive Vice President of RealtyTrac, an ATTOM Data Solutions company. “While it’s still highly unlikely that we’ll see another wave of foreclosures like the one we had during the Great Recession, we really won’t know how big that backlog is until after the government programs expire.”

Bank repossessions decrease 95 percent since their peak in 2010
Lenders repossessed 50,238 properties through foreclosure (REO) in 2020, down 65 percent from 2019 and down 95 percent from a peak of 1,050,500 in 2010, to the lowest level as far back as data is available — 2006.

Counter to the national trend, there were metropolitan statistical areas with a population greater than 200,000 that saw a year-over-year increase in REOs, including Lake Havasu, Arizona (up 30 percent); Champaign, Illinois (up 29 percent); Chico, California (up 26 percent); and Bremerton, Washington (up 25 percent).

Lenders repossessed 1,972 U.S. properties through completed foreclosures (REOs) in December 2020, down 2 percent from last month and down 86 percent from a year ago.

Foreclosure starts at new record low nationwide, Idaho only state to see an annual increase
Lenders started the foreclosure process on 131,372 U.S. properties in 2020, down 61 percent from 2019 and down 94 percent from a peak of 2,139,005 in 2009, to a new all-time low going back as far as foreclosure starts data is available — 2006.

“The impact of the government foreclosure moratoria and mortgage forbearance programs is nowhere more obvious than in the foreclosure start numbers from 2020. We ended the year with a near-record number of seriously delinquent loans, but historically low levels of foreclosure activity,” Sharga said. “The good news is that the government and mortgage industry succeeded in working together to prevent unnecessary foreclosures; the question remains how many homeowners whose finances have been affected by the pandemic will ultimately default on their loans, and whether the strength of the housing market will help cushion the fallout.”

States that saw declines in foreclosure starts from last year included Oregon (down 79 percent); Kansas (down 77 percent); Arkansas (down 77 percent); Nevada (down 71 percent); and Massachusetts (down 70 percent).

Counter to the national trend, Idaho saw a slight uptick (up 4 percent) from last year.

Those metropolitan statistical areas with a population greater than 1 million that had at least 500 foreclosure starts in 2020 and saw the greatest decline in foreclosure starts from last year, included Jacksonville, Florida (down 74 percent); Las Vegas, Nevada (down 74 percent); Washington, DC (down 72 percent); Memphis, Tennessee (down 72 percent); and Orlando, Florida (down 71 percent).

Delaware, New Jersey, Illinois post top state foreclosure rates in 2020
States with the highest foreclosure rates in 2020 were Delaware (0.33 percent of housing units with a foreclosure filing); New Jersey (0.31 percent); Illinois (0.30 percent); Maryland (0.26 percent); and South Carolina (0.24 percent).

Rounding out the top 10 states with the highest foreclosure rates were:

  • Florida (0.23 percent); 
  • Connecticut (0.22 percent); 
  • Ohio (0.21 percent); 
  • Georgia (0.19 percent); and 
  • Indiana (0.18 percent).

Peoria, Rockford, Trenton post top metro foreclosure rates in 2020
Among 220 metropolitan statistical areas with a population of at least 200,000, those with the highest foreclosure rates in 2020 were Peoria, Illinois (0.48 percent of housing units with a foreclosure filing); Rockford, Illinois (0.44 percent); Trenton, New Jersey (0.44 percent); Atlantic City, New Jersey (0.40 percent); and McAllen, Texas (0.35 percent).

Metro areas with a population greater than 1 million that had the highest foreclosure rate, were:

  • Cleveland, Ohio (0.34 percent); 
  • Chicago, Illinois (0.30 percent); 
  • Baltimore, Maryland (0.29 percent); 
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (0.29 percent); and 
  • Riverside, California (0.28 percent).

Average time to foreclose increases annually
U.S. properties foreclosed in the fourth quarter of 2020 had been in the foreclosure process an average of 857 days, a 3 percent increase from the previous quarter and from a year ago.

2020 Year-End Avg Days to Complete Foreclosure

States with the longest average time to foreclose in Q4 2020 were:

  • Hawaii (2,186 days); 
  • New York (1,465 days); 
  • Kentucky (1,390 days); 
  • Pennsylvania (1,275 days); and 
  • Massachusetts (1,223 days).

Report methodology
The ATTOM Data Solutions U.S. Foreclosure Market Report provides a count of the total number of properties with at least one foreclosure filing entered into the ATTOM Data Warehouse during the month and quarter. Some foreclosure filings entered into the database during the quarter may have been recorded in the previous quarter. Data is collected from more than 2,200 counties nationwide, and those counties account for more than 90 percent of the U.S. population. ATTOM’s report incorporates documents filed in all three phases of foreclosure: Default — Notice of Default (NOD) and Lis Pendens (LIS); Auction — Notice of Trustee Sale and Notice of Foreclosure Sale (NTS and NFS); and Real Estate Owned, or REO properties (that have been foreclosed on and repurchased by a bank). For the annual, midyear and quarterly reports, if more than one type of foreclosure document is received for a property during the timeframe, only the most recent filing is counted in the report. The annual, midyear, quarterly and monthly reports all check if the same type of document was filed against a property previously. If so, and if that previous filing occurred within the estimated foreclosure timeframe for the state where the property is located, the report does not count the property in the current year, quarter or month.

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of The Georgia Virtue. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta, a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast,' and she has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers." Sign up for her weekly newsletter:

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