Are Foreclosures Up or Down? It Depends on Who’s Counting

RealtyTrac says that Flagler County’s foreclosures grew by 51% in January. The County Clerk’s Office indicates no growth. Why the difference?

Palm Coast, FL – February 11, 2010 – A front page Daytona Beach News-Journal article today reporting on home defaults stated, "There were 255 foreclosure filings in Flagler County in January, up 51 percent from the 169 filings in January 2009." The N-J got their numbers from California-based RealtyTrac, a well known and widely quoted data gathering and reporting company. Their numbers make for a dramatic story, but the Flagler County Clerk of Courts recorded 219 foreclosures in January 2009 and only 216 in January 2010. Why the difference?

There are two problems. The first is that national data collection companies have to rely on other sources for their information. The timeliness, relevance, and accuracy of information may be questionable. For instance Zillow provides an indication of the value of your home but it’s based on the per square foot selling price of nearby homes. Zillow doesn’t know if your home has a pool or if it is on a lake, golf course or canal.

Second, there may be several dates associated with a foreclosure. An examination of actual recorded Lis Pendens uncovered one with a July ’09 date stamp, and an August ’09 date stamp. The clerk’s office recorded this LP in January 2010.

The News-Journal uses RealtyTrac. I use the Clerk’s office recording date. Both reports are accurate within the context of their sources, but the large disparity should warn us not to rely too much on them. Trends over time provide a much more accurate picture than snapshots in time.

Foreclosure filings based on Flagler County Clerk of Courts Recording Date:

Flagler County Foreclosures Recorded
Month 2008 2009 2010
January 186 219 216
February 228 188  
March 238 233  
April 238 260  
May 248 154  
June 280 263  
July 198 233  
August 184 247  
September 252 194  
October 277 164  
November 215 137  
December 231 303  

While month-to-month variations can be big, the overall trend is less dramatic. The total of lis pendens filed in 2009 was 2,598, down  5.7% from 2,755 in 2008. Doesn’t make much of a headline, does it?

3 replies
  1. John
    John says:

    Good analysis

    That is how I like to see the data, raw. The number side by side speak for themselves. I must say though that I disagree with your final thought, I think a decline in total forclosures from ’08 to ’09 is headline worthy. It’s not a massive swing but from my personal perspective (guy feeling) I thought that 2009 yielded a lot more foreclosures than 2008.

    Keep up the good work.

    PS – Any update on the massive Ginn CA suit that was filed? I heard that the Michigan one got kicked out of court but the larger one is still in play. I haven’t heard much on that filing.

  2. Rebecca Reynolds
    Rebecca Reynolds says:

    And then you wonder…?

    It disheartens me to see the damage this article will do with the doom and gloom that the media portrays. Why can’t the News Journal show Flagler county in the correct light and stop with the pessimism that seems to be news-worthy?

  3. Don C.
    Don C. says:

    Latest F.C. foreclosure numbers

    Toby: Thanks for the FC Foreclosure data. For kicks I calculated the 3-month rolling averages to flatten out the extreme highs and lows to try to get a clearer overall picture of where we’re headed. The picture for 2009 is quite encouraging.
    The average of the 3-month rolling averages dropped from 235 for 2008 to 214 for 2009, while the numbers in the absolute dropped from 231 to 216. An encouraging improvement.
    However, using the same rolling 3-month metrics, the numbers for just the last 3 months have taken a substantial turn upwards. Not good news.
    For perspective, during the entire year of 2009, the 3 month rolling average ranged from a high of 248 to a low of 201, except for November. The November 3-month rolling average was the only one below 200, coming in at 165.
    The 3-month averages for the most recent three months however, including November’s low point, have been: November 165, December 201 and January 219. This trend is a disturbing reversal, making the February number a significant one to look for when it is released in March. Hopefully it will be low enough to reverse this trend. If it is not, then we need to be aware that we are once again headed in the wrong direction.
    The key actual number in the report for February will be 138. Higher is NOT good news but less means we are once again headed in the right direction, i.e. back down again. Don C.

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