Foreclosures have been a persistent pain nagging the Sullivan County housing market since the recession began.
RealtyTrac’s annual foreclosure market report shows that problem is likely going to continue for a while.
A little over 600 homes in Sullivan County entered the foreclosure process during 2011, a 44.3 percent increase over 2010.
Nationally, 1.9 million homes entered the foreclosure pipeline — the lowest level since 2007, when the recession began.
Washington and Hawkins counties showed 2011 decreases in foreclosure filings.
While Kingsport showed a 28.6 percent increase in foreclosure filings — a total of 265 households — Bristol bore the biggest percentage increase. Last year saw 219 homes in Bristol enter the process, up 71 percent from 2010.
Foreclosure sales in Sullivan County accounted for about 17 percent of all existing home sales in 2011, and the monthly rate of sales from the existing foreclosure stock has been in the range of 30 percent to 35 percent for each month during the fourth quarter. That higher demand and an overall improving local housing market has been chipping away at the county’s foreclosure inventory, which averaged about 61 homes a month last year.
At the same time, the CoreLogic Non-stressed Sales Index shows the prices of existing home sales are gaining against the drag of foreclosures and short sales in the Kingsport/Bristol Metropolitan Statistical Area. The most current index is for November, and it still shows a 6.9 percent improvement from November 2010. The local non-stressed sales index has been on a positive footing since March.
Some housing analysts contend performance of non-stressed sales are an overlooked indicator that shows the market is recovering without further government help. Nationally, non-stressed sales are still in negative territory — down 4.3 percent in November — but still showing improvement over the same month last year.
RealtyTrac officials cautioned that the national decline in foreclosure filings does not necessarily indicate that the housing market is getting better, as many foreclosures have been delayed due to confusion over documentation and legal issues involved in the process.
There have also been problems with the way some lenders were handling foreclosures — specifically, signing off on home foreclosures without first verifying documents (a practice referred to as “robo-signing”). Many of the largest U.S. banks reacted by temporarily ceasing all foreclosures, refiling previously filed foreclosure cases, and revisiting pending cases to prevent errors.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.