NEW YORK — The bleakest year in the foreclosure crisis has only just begun.
Lenders are poised to take back more homes this year than any other since the U.S. housing meltdown began in 2006. About 5 million borrowers are at least two months behind on their mortgages and more will miss payments as they struggle with job losses and loans worth more than their homes’ value, industry analysts forecast.
"2011 is going to be the peak," said Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac Inc. The firm predicts 1.2 million homes will be repossessed this year by lenders.
The outlook comes after banks repossessed more than 1 million homes in 2010, RealtyTrac said Thursday. That marked the highest annual tally of properties lost to foreclosure on records dating back to 2005.
Nevada posted the highest foreclosure rate in 2010 for the fourth straight year, despite a 5 percent decline in activity from the year before. One in every 11 households received a foreclosure filing last year in the state. In December, foreclosure activity increased 18 percent from November with a 71 percent spike in bank repossessions.
One in 45 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing last year, or a record high of 2.9 million homes. That’s up 1.67 percent from 2009.
For December, 257,747 U.S. homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice. That was the lowest monthly total in 30 months. The number of notices fell 1.8 percent from November and 26.3 percent from December 2009, RealtyTrac said.
The pace slowed in the final two months of 2010 as banks reviewed their foreclosure processes after allegations surfaced in September that evictions were handled improperly. Under increased scrutiny by the government, lenders temporarily halted taking actions against borrowers severely behind on their payments.
However, most banks have since resumed their eviction processes, and the first quarter will likely show a rebound in foreclosure activity, Sharga said.
Foreclosures are expected to remain elevated through the year as homeowners contend with stubbornly high unemployment, tougher credit standards for refinancing and falling home values. Sharga said he expects prices to dip another 5 percent nationally before finally bottoming out. The decline will push more borrowers underwater on their mortgages. Already, about one in five homeowners with a mortgage owe more than their home is worth.
The pain likely will be the most acute in states that have already been hit hard. That includes former housing boom states Nevada, Arizona, Florida and California, along with states that are suffering most from the economic downturn, including Michigan and Illinois.1.2 million
homes will be repossessed this year as predicted by RealtyTrac Inc.
drop in foreclosures in Nevada last year compared to the previous year
homes received a foreclosure filing last year in the U.S.
drop in filings in December 2010 from December 2009, nationwide
drop in home prices nationwide is forecasted by RealtyTrac