Foreclosure activity in Arkansas’ three largest metro areas and in the nation is below recession-related highs, according to Irvine, Calif.,-based RealtyTrac.com. There were 289,116 U.S. foreclosure filings recorded in the first three months of the year, down 8% from a year ago, the lowest quarterly total since the fourth quarter of 2006.
During the first quarter of this year foreclosure activity was well below pre-recession levels in 78 out of 216 U.S. metropolitan areas, including Northwest Arkansas which reported a 93% decline in foreclosures since the market peaked in the first quarter of 2010. The Fort Smith metro area had a 77% decline in filings since that market peaked in the fourth quarter of 2009. The Little Rock metro area reported a 68% drop in foreclosure filings compared to the market peak in the third quarter of 2010.
“While some markets ticked up in March, foreclosure activity in most markets continues to trend lower and back toward more healthy, stable levels,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac.com. “More than one-third of the 216 local markets we analyzed were below their pre-recession foreclosure activity averages in the first quarter, and we would expect a growing number of markets to move below that milestone the rest of this year – while the number of markets with a lingering low-grade fever of foreclosure activity continues to shrink.”
There were 115 foreclosure filings in Benton County during the first quarter, down 25.8% from the previous quarter and 3.36% lower year-over-year. The foreclosure rate in the quarter was one in every 827 households, which was the eighth (out of 75 counties) most active market in the state. Washington County reported 37 new filings, down 42% from the previous quarter and 42% lower than a year ago. The county’s foreclosure rate was one out of every 2,398 households, ranking No. 43 statewide in terms of foreclosure activity.
The Fort Smith area saw foreclosure filings slightly higher year-over, but down from the previous quarter. In Sebastian and Crawford counties there were 43 and 17 filings, respectively. One of every 1,289 homes in Sebastian County were in foreclosure during the first quarter of the year, making the county the 17th most active. The number of filings were up 4.88% in the first quarter from a year ago, while they were down 10.42% from the previous quarter. In Crawford County one in every 1,549 homes were in the midst of foreclosure in the quarter. The 17 filings were down 41.28% from the previous quarter, but up 13.33% from the year-ago period.
Central Arkansas counties followed the same trend as Fort Smith, with filings up slightly from a year ago, but down from the last quarter of 2015. Pulaski County had 339 filings in the first quarter, or one out of every 527 homes. Filings were up 7.28% from last year, but down 4.51% from the fourth quarter of 2015. Garland County had 77 filings in the quarter, up 1.32% from March 2015, and 22% higher than a year ago. One in every 657 households in the market were in foreclosure to start 2016.
Faulkner County had 75 filings the first quarter, down 7.4% from the previous quarter but up 5.63% from a year ago. One in every 641 homes were in some phase of foreclosure during the recent quarter. Saline County had 71 filings, down 12.36% from the previous month and 21% lower year-over-year. Saline County ranked 5th in terms of foreclosure activity in the first quarter with one in every 647 homes in the midst of foreclosure.
In Northeast Arkansas, Craighead County reported 22 foreclosure filings in the quarter, dead even with last year and the prior quarter. One in every 1,905 households in the county had a foreclosure filing in the first quarter of this year.
Among the 216 major metro areas analyzed for the report, 210 (97%) were below peak foreclosure activity levels in the first quarter of 2016. Markets furthest below the previous peak were Merced, Calif. (95 % below peak), followed by six markets all with Q1 2016 foreclosure activity 93% below peak levels: Boulder, Colo.; Fayetteville, Ark., Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., Stockton, Calif.; Denver, Colo.; and Phoenix, Ariz.
There were a total of 108,970 U.S. properties with foreclosure filings in March, an 11% increase from February, and the highest monthly level since October 2015. However, the March numbers were down 11% from a year ago.
In Northwest Arkansas there were 25 filings in March in Benton County, while Washington County had nine filings. The foreclosure activity was down by more than 53% and 57% respectively in the two counties from the same month last year.
Foreclosures were also low in Crawford and Sebastian counties in March. There were just eight filings in March split evenly between the two counties. Filings were down 75% in Sebastian County, while they were flat in Crawford County compared to the year-ago period.
In Central Arkansas there 147 filings in Pulaski County in March, down 12.5% from a year ago. Faulkner County had 21 filings, down 44.74% from a year ago. In Saline County there were 31 filings, down 18.42% year-over-year. Garland County bucked the downward trend with 20 filings in March, up 5.26% from a year ago.
In Northeast Arkansas, Craighead County had 5 fillings in March, down 54.5% from a year ago.
RealtyTrac.com reports foreclosure starts picked up in 20 states in March, and Arkansas was not one of them. Most of the filings in the above referenced counties were in the final phase of the foreclosure pipeline – the stage the lender has taken back the property to re-market it for sale.
Blomquist said the timing is good for bank-owned homes to hit the market at the front end of the spring selling season and the lower overall inventory of homes for sale is also a plus for prices.
The average time to foreclose decreased for the second consecutive quarter in March as properties lingered in the foreclosure pipeline an average of 625 days, down 1% from 629 days in the previous quarter, but still up 1% from 620 days in the first quarter of 2015.