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Fewer Western Pennsylvania homes taken back by banks

  

triblive.com | February 16, 2015

By Chris Fleisher

Banks repossessed fewer homes in the Pittsburgh area last month than a year ago, bucking a state and national trend that suggested lenders are growing more comfortable with tighter foreclosure rules since the housing crisis.

Property repossessions in January rose 23 percent in the United States and spiked 44 percent in Pennsylvania from a year ago, according to data released Thursday by Realty Trac, a real estate information company.

But the number of repossessions in Pittsburgh fell 45 percent last month from a year ago, with some experts attributing the slower pace to local laws and banks being more diligent in processing foreclosures.

“Each individual municipality, they've also increased their processes for the mitigation, the mediation,” said Jack Shelley, senior vice president at Dollar Bank. “That's really stretched it out.”

The number of repossessed homes in the seven-county Pittsburgh region fell to 80 in January from 145 a year ago.

The national and statewide increase in repossessions suggested that banks are catching up with their backlog of bad loans amid an improving economy and after adjusting to consumer mortgage protections implemented last year, said Daren Blomquist, vice president of Realty Trac.

But Shelley said the statewide and national trend could be an indication that big banks are turning their attention back to completing foreclosures they put on hold while fending off state and federal lawsuits related to the housing crisis.

Still, others believed the rise in repossessions could be related to servicers becoming more comfortable with the new regulations.

New rules that went into effect last year required banks to improve communication and work through alternative options with homeowners facing foreclosure. The changes came after the so-called “robo-signing” scandal, in which banks were accused of rubber stamping foreclosure paperwork without giving proper notice to homeowners or working with them to stay in their homes. Banks have retooled since and also benefited from an improving housing market in which they're dealing with fewer foreclosures coming through the pipeline, allowing them to complete cases that have been in limbo for years.

“They've had to hire (staff) to deal with a lot of this, and with a lot of the regulation requirements, we have seen an increase in compliance, quality control, those types of functions,” said Joel Kan, of the Mortgage Bankers Association. “I do think that servicers are better prepared for this, and that could be why you are seeing an increased flow.”

 

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