Jan 14, 12:29 AM (ET)
By ADRIAN SAINZ
MIAMI (AP) – A record 2.8 million households were threatened with foreclosure in 2009, and that number is expected to rise this year as more unemployed and cash-strapped homeowners fall behind on their mortgages.
The number of households that received a foreclosure-related notice rose 21 percent from 2008, RealtyTrac Inc. reported Thursday. One in 45 homes were sent a filing, which includes default notices, scheduled foreclosure auctions and bank repossessions.
In December, more than 349,000 households, or one in 366 homes, were hit with a foreclosure-related notice. That represents a 14 percent spike from November and a 15 percent jump from December 2008.
Banks repossessed more than 92,000 homes, up 19 percent from November. That increase was likely due to lenders working to clear their books at the end of the year, RealtyTrac said.
Stemming the tide of foreclosures is an important step for the real estate market and the economy to recover. Because foreclosures are usually sold at heavy discounts they can lower the value of surrounding properties. Cities lose property tax dollars from empty foreclosures and declining home values, straining local economies. Home prices have stabilized in some cities, but are still down 30 percent nationally from mid-2006.
The foreclosure crisis isn’t letting up. Between 3 and 3.5 million homes are expected to enter some phase of foreclosure this year, said Rick Sharga, senior vice president of Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac, which began tracking the data five years ago.
High foreclosures forced the federal government and several states to come up with plans to prevent or delay foreclosures to help troubled borrowers.