Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Foreclosures hit 4-year low in metro area

New data indicate that the number of Phoenix-area homes taken back by lenders in January fell to its lowest level since early 2008.

Last month, there were 2,263 foreclosures, or trustee sales, in the region, according to real-estate research firm Information Market. Pre-foreclosures, also known as notice of trustee sales, fell to 2,932, the lowest level since the summer of 2007.

A year ago, both foreclosures and pre-foreclosures were double what they are now. The number of pending foreclosures is one-third of what it was a year ago. Only 15,000 active foreclosures are making their way through the process now.

Some housing analysts continue to talk about shadow inventory, characterized as essentially unexpected foreclosures that will hit the market just as it begins to recover. But that phenomenon can't be tracked now.

Tom Ruff, analyst with Information Market, tracks notice of trustee sales, trustee sales and homes sold at the foreclosure auction daily. He said he sees no sign of a shadow-inventory problem in metro Phoenix.

The region's mortgage-delinquency rate has also fallen during the past year, meaning fewer homeowners are falling behind on their payments. Some market watchers say banks just aren't moving on many foreclosures and are not reporting all the loans borrowers are missing payments on, but lenders deny this.

So going by the numbers and word of lenders, it looks like the worst of metro Phoenix's foreclosure crisis is behind it.

Economic barometer

The southeastern corner of 25th Street and Camelback became a Christmas-tree lot in the mid-1980s during an office-construction boom in metro Phoenix, and the first Esplanade tower went up west of it. Then came the real-estate crash of 1990. The lot at 25th Street remained empty except around the holidays.

As the Phoenix office market rebounded in the mid-1990s, the lot was developed into a shopping center with an athletics store and two popular eateries, the Hard Rock Cafe and Marco Polo Supper Club.

But then came the slight downturn from the dot.com bubble, and by 2003, the center's stores and both restaurants had closed. Developer Donald Trump proposed a high-rise resort for the corner during the boom in 2005 but walked away from the project in 2006.

Last year, Alliance Residential bought the lot out of foreclosure.

The firm is building a 270-unit upscale-apartment complex there.

by Catherine Reagor - Feb. 3, 2012 02:39 PM The Arizona Republic

Foreclosures hit 4-year low in metro area

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