Foreclosure filings fall in January

Peninsula-area foreclosure filings dropped by 34 percent in January, compared to January 2010. The 203 filings were the fewest recorded in a month since October 2008 — 27 months ago.

Nationally, foreclosure filings were down 17 percent from January 2010, according to RealtyTrac, which monitors foreclosure activity.

"Unfortunately this is less a sign of a robust housing recovery and more a sign that lenders have become bogged down in reviewing procedures, resubmitting paperwork and formulating legal arguments related to accusations of improper foreclosure processing," James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac's chief executive, said in a news release.

That's true in part, said Old Dominion University economics professor Gilbert Yochum. But employment is slowly building, and the nation is expected to add 2 million jobs in 2011. Locally, employment is expected to pick up nearly 10,000 jobs, a 1.3 percent increase, despite news that the closing of Joint Forces Command in Norfolk will cost 1,900 jobs. Employment is a strong indicator of the future housing market, Yochum said.

"The economy is starting to turn around. Employment, in particular, is starting to turn around," he said.

Yochum thinks foreclosures peaked last year and will remain high this year before they start tapering off in 2012.

"Despite the decline in foreclosures, we're not looking for the prices to turn around this year. We're thinking may be 2012," Yochum said.

That's because there's an abundance of homes on the market.

"Until that inventory is worked off a little better, housing prices are going to continue to be soft," he said.

Virginia dropped to 32nd among states for its foreclosure rate, after ranking 19th from the top in December, according to RealtyTrac.

Locally, Hampton had 68 filings, down from 90 in January 2010. Newport News had 62 filings, down from 142. James City County had 28 filings, down from 33. York County had 10 filings, up from four. Isle of Wight County had 12 filings, no change from January 2010. Gloucester County had nine filings, down from 18.

Poquoson had five filings, Middlesex County had six, Middlesex County had three, and Williamsburg had none.

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