Miss. escaping most of foreclosure crisis

Published 2:32 pm Friday, March 11, 2011

Although the national foreclosure crisis has largely bypassed Mississippi so far, lenders are starting new actions targeted at those who are behind on their payments and still living in their houses, a national foreclosure tracking firm said Thursday.

Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac said the owners of 457 properties in Mississippi received some kind of foreclosure notice in February, up 9.9 percent from February 2010. Of those, 290 were hit by a notice of sale, while 167 were repossessed.

The actions affected one in every 2,805 housing units in Mississippi, ranking the state 43rd nationally.

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Rick Sharga, senior vice president of RealtyTrac, said foreclosures are far from finished. Last month, lenders filed about 70,000 revived foreclosure actions nationwide after being delayed for months because of questions about the legality of earlier paperwork. Those numbers were not included in RealtyTrac’s monthly report, Sharga said.

“The foreclosure numbers are severely distorted,” Sharga said.

Mississippi’s foreclosure rate, to this point, has been among the lowest nationally because the state did not have a run-up in home prices that precluded the foreclosure epidemic, he said. Economists previously have said that Mississippi, compared to the rest of the United States, has a low number of homeowners.

Sharga said another factor is an undetermined number of properties that were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and simply abandoned by their owners, who still owe mortgage payments.

“Those homes are in limbo while insurers try to figure out what to do with them,” he said.

Nationwide, the fight over foreclosure paperwork led activity to a 36-month low, RealtyTrac said. Default notices, scheduled auctions and lender repossessions hit 225,101 owners last month, the firm said.

The hotbeds of foreclosure activity in February were Nevada, Arizona, California, Utah, Idaho, Georgia, Michigan, Florida, Colorado and Hawaii.