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Officials Launch Offensive to Debunk Foreclosure Data that Ranks Maryland Third-worst in U.S.

bizjournals.com | November 18, 2013

By Kevin Litten

Online foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac has moved Maryland's foreclosure ranking from fourth in the nation to third after the state posted a 10 percent increase in foreclosure activity in October. But Maryland officials insist that only tells part — if any — of the real story.

October was the 16th straight month in which Maryland recorded an increase in foreclosure activity, and there were more than 201 percent more foreclosures in October 2013 than there were in October 2012, RealtyTrac said.

The foreclosure rise is hardly a surprise, given that the state was part of a national judicial action that rejected thousands of court foreclosure filings because of errors in the paperwork, including mortgages that were part of the bank "robosigning" scandal. Most of the foreclosures RealtyTrac is counting are new filings on old foreclosures.

What's different this month is the state's reaction. In past months, the state Department of Housing and Community Development was content to send out a tersely worded statement from Secretary Raymond A. Skinner noting all of the families that had avoided foreclosure thanks to state programs and explaining Maryland's status as a judicial state.

Late Wednesday, officials sent a four-page document that included a joint statement from Skinner and Mark Kaufman, the commissioner of the state Office of Financial Regulation. The release details how the state has actually ranked low nationwide when foreclosure sales are compared to the volume of active home loans.

According to state numbers, Maryland is "ranked 15th best nationally with the lowest number of foreclosure sales relative to the number of loans in service, better than neighboring Pennsylvania (17th), Delaware (18th) and Virginia (26th)," the release said.

Kaufman goes on to provide an extensive analysis comparing Maryland's foreclosure situation with Virginia, a state that has 25 percent more active mortgages than Maryland.

"Statistics show that Maryland has experienced fewer than half the number of foreclosures that have occurred in Virginia since the outset of the crisis," Kaufman said in the statement. "We believe Maryland will continue to outperform Virginia in this regard, even as resolving the backlog of serious delinquencies results in a higher foreclosure rate in Maryland as with other judicial states around the nation.

"Kaufman also pointed out that the state is "experiencing stronger price recovery than neighboring states," even though more distressed sales are heading to market due to the increased foreclosures.

Average home prices rose 15.2 percent last month, the 21st straight month of increases.

In a phone call on Wednesday, Kaufman even questioned the accuracy of RealtyTrac's data. The company's report released Thursday said foreclosures in the Baltimore region were up "296 percent for the 13th consecutive month with an annual increase."

If correct, Kaufman said the numbers were surprising considering Prince George's County has been the more traditional center of foreclosure activity and the Washington D.C. area reported just a 48 percent increase in foreclosure activity.

 

Back to November 2013 Archive

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