More Whatcom County residents received the unwelcomed news of a foreclosure filing notice last month, according to a national report.
In November, 91 Whatcom housing units received a foreclosure notice, the highest monthly total since March 2011, according to data from RealtyTrac, an online database for foreclosure properties.
Of those Whatcom filings, 72 were notice of trustee sales, typically the first stage of the foreclosure process.
The uptick in foreclosure filings last month took place across Washington. In November, one in every 756 Washington housing units received a filing, ranking it 11th highest in the country. In Whatcom County, one in every 996 housing units received a noticed last month.
In a news release accompanying the data, RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist said states like Washington are receiving more foreclosure filings as lenders adjust to new ground rules about starting the foreclosure process. In Washington, for example, the Foreclosure Fairness Act was put into place the past year to allow homeowners to request mediation with the lender to try to modify their loan.
Peter Roberts, a Bellingham real estate agent for John L. Scott who has experience with distressed property transactions, agreed there is a backlog of distressed property that lenders are now working through.
"I don't think the situation is any worse or better; those who are in trouble (with distressed property) continue to be in trouble," he said. "In my experience, it's almost impossible for a typical homeowner to catch up once they've fallen 90 days behind on mortgage payments."
At this point it's difficult to say whether the November rise in filings will become a trend locally, said Timothy Krell, a Whatcom County real estate attorney.
"There are still so many unknowns out there," including how many properties are in the pre-foreclosure stage, he said.
Krell, who has handled a few mediations, said the Foreclosure Fairness Act is helping some people. Even if the success rate is 50 or 60 percent, he said, it's a big help for people who might otherwise give up their home through foreclosure.
With stronger home sales locally, Roberts said it is becoming a little easier for homeowners to sell distressed property. Housing inventory locally is around six months, and even lower for homes priced under $300,000. Roberts expects more homes to enter the local market in the first part of 2013, which should increase the overall inventory.
Across the U.S., foreclosure filings in November were down 19 percent compared to a year earlier, marking the 26th consecutive month with an annual decrease in foreclosure activity. Florida posted the nation's highest state foreclosure rate, followed by Nevada, Illinois and California.
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamHeraldBiz.