News Journal Foreclosure Story Misrepresents Flagler Picture

Reporting a ”surge” in foreclosure activity when easily found evidence shows otherwise is simply lazy reporting. Putting the story above the fold on page one is unconscionable.

Palm Coast, FL – January 12, 2012 – I’m still steamed over yesterday’s News Journal front page (above the fold) story entitled "Lost homes surge in Flagler," written by business writer Tom Knox. The lead line is, "Foreclosure activity surged in Flagler County last month, with the number of homes in trouble nearly doubling compared to November." Unfortunately, the story is wrong. It does a significant disservice to Palm Coast and Flagler County.
The News Journal relies on "RealtyTrac, an Irvine, Calif.-based real estate research firm that tracks foreclosure activity throughout the nation." Most media outlets likewise rely on RealtyTrac. That’s because filtering through available data is time consuming and labor intensive. RealtyTrac provides a convenient one-stop source for foreclosure information. Unfortunately, RealtyTrac gets its data from sources other than court documents.
The News Journal states, "December’s increase to 272 homes in some stage of foreclosure, up from 149 the previous month, made Flagler the county with the highest ratio of homes in foreclosure in the state.."

That means that the total went up by 123 in a single month (272 minus 149). Flagler County Clerk’s data tells a different story. There were EXACTLY 90 foreclosure filings in Flagler County during the month of December. That compares to 97 in November and 104 in October; Hardly a "surge."
Even if no properties exited the foreclosure process in December, it would be impossible for the number "in the foreclosure process" to have risen more than the 90 that entered the process. Of course, properties do leave the process for several reasons; short sale, loan modification, foreclosure auction, deed in lieu, dismissal, withdrawal by plaintiff, etc.
When a property is sold at a foreclosure auction, a Certificate of Title is issued by the Clerk of Court. 35 such deeds were issued in December. Looking simply at foreclosure filings (90) minus Certificates of Title (35), we find a net of +55. Short sales etc. would account for several more properties exiting the foreclosure process.
The following graph shows the relationship between home sales, foreclosure filings and foreclosure auctions (Certificates of Title). You can easily see how the documentation crisis driven by robo-signing perturbed foreclosure activity between mid-2010 and early 2011. You can also see that foreclosure activity is falling, not surging.

Flagler County foreclosures and home sales

Deep into the News Journal story, where it continues on page five, we find, "Last year was the third in a row that the number of foreclosures in the county has decreased from the previous year." Why was the good news buried so deeply?
Reporting a "surge" in foreclosure activity when easily found evidence shows otherwise is simply lazy reporting. Putting the story above the fold on page one is unconscionable. Flagler County and Palm Coast residents deserve better.
Tell the News Journal how you feel by answering the following poll. Urge your friends to do so too.

8 replies
  1. Doug Colpoys
    Doug Colpoys says:

    News Journal put to good use

    News journal is good for getting a fire started in the fireplace. The best part is you do not have to read it. Just ball it up under your firewood and let it rip.

  2. Charles Kane
    Charles Kane says:

    Shoddy Journalism

    Shoddy, inaccurate, bias, and lazy journalism has been typical of the local paper, which is why dropped my subscription years ago. Unfortunately such practices are not limited to one local paper, but carry throughout the news media. We did a better job of reporting on my high school newspaper 50 years ago than many outlets do today. What do this teach in Journalism schools? It is not good reporting.

  3. Lewis Roberts
    Lewis Roberts says:

    all the numbers are wrong

    Coming from a bankruptcy and foreclosure defense attorney with many clients in Palm Coast, I think all of the numbers are wrong.

    While I think the "surge" is incorrect, I think the total number of 272 is WAY low.

    Even with some getting modifications, some short sales, some deed in lieus (which usually take more than 3 months to accomplish), there has to be more than 272 active foreclosures in Flagler County.

    I bet you I have over 100 clients who are in some stage of foreclosure. And I am only 1 attorney out of many. Let alone all the people who aren’t represented at all.

    I see countless foreclosures dismissed for "lack of prosecution, which doesn’t even count.

    I have countless clients who are months, if not years behind on their mortgage, where no foreclosure has even been filed yet.

    We aren’t even half way through this mess yet.

    So to worry about the "surge" in foreclosures number being too high, we should focus on the total number of foreclosures that are active is probably too low.

  4. Bill Hasson
    Bill Hasson says:

    Current List of Forclosured Properties

    I am interested in developing a current list of all forclosued properties ready for sale in Palm Coast. Where would I go?


  5. Toby
    Toby says:

    Reply to Bill

    Properties that are in foreclosure are often listed for sale as ”short sales.” Those already foreclosed and available are listed as ”lender-owned” or ”REO.” A Realtor would be able to help you find them.

    If you are interested in finding out what properties are scheduled for a foreclosure sale, go to the Clerk of Courts website for the list of foreclosure sales. You will have to cross reference the Clerk’s schedule with the Property Appraisers website to find the address and other information.

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