Two new reports suggest Arizona and the Valley remain fully in the clutches of the ongoing foreclosure crisis.
Existing home prices have started to improve, but another wave of foreclosures - mostly in mid-priced homes - is likely to hit the Valley soon, according to the latest report from Arizona State University's Realty Studies Department.
"I think the foreclosure rate will pick up after the first of the year because of the continued weak job market and frustration on the part of homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages," said Jay Butler, ASU realty studies director. "We're in an economic recovery, but it's an anemic recovery, and more layoffs will be coming."
National foreclosure filings fell last month while Arizona increased nearly 8 percent, according to the latest market report from RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for foreclosure properties.
Foreclosure filings - default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions - were reported on 14,349 properties statewide, up 7.5 percent from October and more than 9 percent from November 2008. Arizona had the fourth-highest foreclosure rate in the nation, with one in every 186 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing.
"Arizona had seen three straight months of decreasing foreclosure activity and then there was an uptick in November," said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac spokesman. "The real pattern that we're seeing at the state level, in a lot of cases, is a little bit of a roller-coaster ride with the foreclosure numbers. There's still the underlying problems that are driving foreclosures out there, but at the same time there's a pretty strong effort to ... prevent foreclosures. Because of that, we're not seeing a consistent downward or upward trend. The numbers are going up and down."
In November, 61 percent of the activity in the Valley's existing home market was foreclosures and resales of previously foreclosed-on properties, Butler said. About 3,000 homes were foreclosed on last month in the Valley, he said.
More than 5,300 existing homes were sold last month, down from more than 6,100 in October. This represents the typical slowdown of sales activity toward the end of the year but still was much higher than November 2008, when 3,400 homes were resold, he said.
The median price in the Valley was $143,000, up from $140,000 in October. The median price in November 2008 was $162,000.
"After the first of the year, we'll kind of go through this surge (of foreclosures) probably in March and then things should start to calm down and hopefully return to some sense of normalcy, which we haven't seen in 10 years," Butler said.
Loan modifications are helping families remain in their homes, but there's growing evidence that many of these homeowners still will end up in foreclosure, Blomquist said.
"That all kind of bodes badly for the modifications that are going on right now," he said. "In many cases, it could just be delaying the inevitable for some of these properties, and so we'll see them hit the foreclosure process sometime next year possibly."
Nationally, foreclosure filings were reported on 306,627 properties last month, a decrease of nearly 8 percent from October but still up 18 percent from November 2008, according to RealtyTrac. One in every 417 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing in November.
"There's a couple of wild cards that could change the picture," Blomquist said. "More government intervention in different ways is one of the wild cards, and, secondly, if the economy really does start to improve and unemployment rates start going down significantly, that could provide the foundation for some of these people who are in the trial modifications to extend those and get those to stick."