Gerri Elder, Author
If the statistics concerning foreclosures in the U.S. are any indication, 2008 could prove to be a tough year for homeowners all across the United States.
Last week saw the release of first quarter statistics from RealtyTrac, and anyone who has been paying attention to the simultaneous plunge in housing prices and leap in home foreclosures will not be shocked at all by the news.
The first quarter of 2008, in fact, saw a 23% rise over foreclosure filings from the last quarter of 2007, and a 112% rise over the first quarter of 2007, one full year ago. In raw numbers, around 650,000 foreclosures were filed in just the first three months of 2008 alone, or 1 in every 194 households in America.
To be clear, foreclosure filings include notices of default, auction sales and bank repossessions, and so each individual instance does not translate into a family losing its home. Many foreclosures in fact right now are on investment properties-multi-unit buildings, single-family homes, townhomes, condos-that have never seen residents, bought by flippers who are seeing the harsh consequences of the volatile market. Some of these properties see multiple filings as the property gets tossed from broker to lender to bank to lender, etc.
However, the numbers still include 156,463 families who have lost their homes to foreclosure, a staggering amount. Of course, not every area of the country saw increases in foreclosures. But generally speaking, the numbers have been overwhelming. According to CNN Money, foreclosures increased in 46 states and in 90 of the nation's 100 largest metro areas.
And trends are not encouraging for many in areas that have been relatively safe from the foreclosure epidemic so far. Previously "safe" areas included parts of New England, Connecticut and Massachusetts in particular. Yet the first quarter saw huge increases in these areas, including a 300% increase in Connecticut and 350% increase in Massachusetts.
It's almost enough to make people in areas sheltered from the foreclosure storm to feel more worried; after all, it seems in this troubling moment, it's only a matter of time before it hits everyone, and those areas which hold out the longest might fall all the harder.
Still, other areas continued their remarkable march into oblivion. The absolute worst region in the nation for foreclosures was also the region that saw the greatest number of housing starts and the highest leap in prices during the housing bubble: the Southwest.
California, Nevada and Arizona are basically the black holes of the U.S. housing market, with rates that truly boggle the mind. According to RealtyTrac numbers, foreclosure hit 1 of every 54 homes in Nevada, and 1 in 44 homes in Las Vegas. But that's not even the worst: California had the worst two individual areas, as Stockton, California remains the epicenter of the crisis, with 1 in 30 homes being foreclosed, with Riverside/San Bernardino (the so-called "Inland Empire") coming in second with 1 in 38 homes.
Google Maps tools have helped to illustrate just a portion of this plague: ForeclosureRadar.com shows maps of foreclosed homes in California, for example, and HotPads.com shows the "hottest" and "coldest" areas for foreclosures in the country.
However, if you want to be amazed by the true horror of the devastation, consider Denver subdivision featured recently in USA Today that was devastated by foreclosures on every block. And remember, these are people's homes.
Did you know that many people have stopped foreclosure by filing bankruptcy?
Chapter 13 bankruptcy was designed to stop foreclosure as soon as you file.
If you are losing your home, talk to a bankruptcy lawyer about your options: