Though the local housing market has shown signs of improvement, foreclosure filings and sheriff's sales are still high in York County.
The Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties last week reported a 14 percent increase in home sales during 2013.
During the same year, the number of foreclosure filings was at its highest level in three years.
"Considering the national trend of a decline in these filings, I am surprised that our numbers have gone up since 2011," said Prothonotary Pam Lee. "Hopefully the trend is just a cleaning out of the backlog and the numbers will drop for 2014."
The 1,823 foreclosure filings in 2013 marked a 4.7 percent jump from the 1,740 in 2012, according to statistics from the York County prothonotary's office. The number of filings in 2012 was a 40 percent increase from the 1,239 filings in 2011.
The higher number of foreclosures have consequently led to a higher number of sheriff's sales, When a mortgage borrower fails to pay the amount due on the loan, lenders can file judicial foreclosure that allows them to sell the property to pay off the outstanding debt. That sale of property is carried out by the local sheriff.
Sheriff sales: For the Monday, Feb. 10, sheriff's sale, 289 new properties are listed.
That's an increase from the 269 new properties the sheriff's office listed in December.
Throughout 2013, 1,616 new properties were listed for sheriff's sale. The compares with 1,360 new listings in 2012 and 1,252 new listings in 2011, according to statistics from the York County sheriff's office.
It's a trend reflected across the country and continued fallout from the recession, analysts said.
Local Realtors have said many foreclosures were put on hold a few years ago and there was a large backlog to work through.
Across the country, the number of homes underwater — having a home value worth less than the amount owed on the mortgage — decreased from 10.7 million in September to 9.3 million in December, according to RealtyTrac, a California-based firm that analyzes housing data.
Last year's numbers are down from a peak in negative equity in May 2012, when 12.8 million U.S. residential properties were deeply underwater. At that time, 29 percent of all properties with a mortgage were underwater.
"During the housing downturn, we saw a downward spiral of falling home prices resulting in rising negative equity, which in turn put millions of homeowners at higher risk for foreclosure when they encountered a trigger event such as job loss," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.
The firm is now seeing the opposite trend — rising home prices resulting in falling negative equity, he said.
"However, there are still millions of homeowners who are in such a deep equity hole that it will take years for them to regain their equity," Blomquist said. "The longer these homeowners remain in a negative equity position without relief in the form of a principal loan balance reduction, the more likely that foreclosure will become the path of least resistance for them."
The impact: The higher foreclosures and sheriff's sales have helped buyers and hurt sellers by holding down prices, said John LeCates, local Realtor and past president of the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties.
"It's definitely helped sell homes in the city and some in other parts of the county," he said.
The number of homes sold in York City increased 25 percent last year, climbing from 254 sales a year earlier to 317 by the end of December, according to statistics released last week by the Realtors Association.
Throughout the county, 4,399 homes were sold in 2013, marking a 14 percent increase from the 3,848 homes sold a year earlier.
Many of last year's sales were to investors buying foreclosed properties to refurbish and resell.
"They're very well priced and attractive to the investment community," LeCates said.
The median sale price in the city was $30,161, a 14 percent decrease from the $35,000 median sale price in 2012.
The median sale price in the county remained stable last year at $145,000 — a 3 percent gain from the $141,107 average price tag in 2012.
The low prices have decreased home values for some sellers, LeCates said.
"It's part of why our prices have been stagnant. Foreclosures definitely affect home prices," he said.
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