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Metro area’s February foreclosure rate No. 2 in U.S.

By Staff | Mar 12, 2009

The Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area’s February foreclosure rate ranked second in the nation, with one in every 65 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing — a default notice, auction sale notice or bank repossession — according to a report released Thursday by Realty Trac, a California-based company that tracks foreclosed properties.
The local area was bested only by the Las Vegas metro area, in which one in every 60 housing units received a foreclosure filing in February.
Nationwide, foreclosure activity increased 6 percent from January, despite government foreclosure prevention efforts on the part of the hardest hit states that extended into February. Florida was not one of those states.
“There were some notable exceptions to this — a 45-day voluntary moratorium in Florida expired at the end of January,” James Saccacio, chief executive officer of Realty Trac, reported in the report.
But Paula Hellenbrand, president of the Cape Coral Association of Realtors, said she does not think the end of the moratorium had an affect on the local market.
“There really hasn’t been an impact,” she said.
Even though the Cape Coral area had the highest foreclosure rate in 2008 and is off to a similar start in 2009, Hellenbrand pointed to statistics that show the city may be starting to work its way through the housing slump.
On March 2, there were four homes in the Cape for every buyer, whereas in March 2008 there were 12 homes for every buyer, showing a 75 percent reduction in available inventory, according to Hellenbrand.
Meanwhile, Lee County Clerk of Courts Charlie Green is struggling to push through the glut of foreclosures backed up in the system.
After two straight months of clearing more foreclosures than were received — following nearly two years of monthly increases in cases received versus cleared — Green’s department cleared 1,857 cases in February while taking in 1,960 new foreclosure cases.
“We fell behind a little bit,” Green said.
The discrepancy was the result of more people indicating they wanted to take their case to court but backing out at the last second, he added.
Green started his “rocket docket” in December, aimed at pushing the foreclosures through the system faster.
“We want a stable housing industry, and one that moves quickly once these homes are out on the market,” he said.
Foreclosed homes are selling in the Cape when they get released back into the market, albeit at much lower prices, and that may be the key to a local housing turnaround.
According to the Florida Association of Realtors, metro area home sales experienced a year-over-year increase of 124 percent in January — the last month for which statistics are available — but the median sale price was $94,900.
“When we see that median price start to turn I think we’ll be on our way to recovery,” Tommy Lee, a Realtor with AA Associates Realty, said.