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Foreclosure Spike Could Be Misleading

Westchester County's third-quarter total of 2,046 foreclosures already exceeds the full-year totals of 1,812 in 2012. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
County filings by town through May 2013. Photo Credit: Provided by Peter Harckham's Office
Westchester County foreclosures' third quarter total of 2,046 already exceeding the full-year totals of 1,812 in 2012 and 1,655 in 2011. Photo Credit: Westchester County Clerk
Photo Credit: Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Westchester County foreclosures are coming in at a rapid pace in 2013, with this year’s third-quarter total of 2,046 already exceeding the full-year totals of 1,812 in 2012 and 1,655 in 2011.

“The number of foreclosure filings in the third quarter of 2013 has increased by 53 percent from the third quarter of 2012,” Westchester County Clerk Timothy Idoni said.

County Legislator Peter Harckham said the fact that foreclosure prevention money was cut from the 2013 county budget and the rise in foreclosures go hand-in-hand. Westchester towns of Lewisboro, Cortlandt, Mount Kisco, New Castle, North Castle, Ossining, Peekskill, and Somers, among others, have already met and/or are expected to exceed their 2012 foreclosure filing totals.

“The foreclosure prevention money I put in budget four years ago was cut out entirely this year,” Harckham said. “Now, Lewisboro and Bedford are (No.) 2 and (No.) 3 in per capita foreclosures as a percentage. Some people may not think certain services are necessary but you must have a full comprehensive understanding of what the whole district is.”

While those numbers seem staggering, Phil Faranda, broker/owner of J.Philip Real Estate LLC and vice president of the Hudson Gateway MLS, said those numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt.

“Many of the filings blowing up the current statistics give an artificial inflation to the numbers because of things like the ‘Robo’ signing scandal and self-imposed moratoriums by lenders themselves delayed many of these filings,” he said.

Faranda added that the term foreclosure is not cut and dry.

“Filing of a defaulted loan, commonly known as ‘putting a house into foreclosure’ in local parlance, does not necessarily mean that the home is going to be repossessed imminently,” Faranda said.

Keller Williams real estate broker Gary Leogrande said that short sales, which are used to avoid foreclosures, are also on the rise in the county. Short sales are sales of real estate in which the proceeds from selling the property fall short of the balance of debts secured against the property, and the property owner cannot afford to repay the full amounts.

“Many banks are still strongly favoring working with homeowners to complete short sales rather than to go through with a foreclosure. We have seen a significant increase in successfully completed short sales this year in Westchester County,” he added.

Both Faranda and Leogrande concluded that the current rise in foreclosures is more reflective of "older shadow inventory" and is not a current crisis. Westchester County Clerk Rosia Blackwell Lawrence said breakdowns of town-by-town foreclosure filings are misleading since the county’s system does not allow them to provide reports by municipality.

“Filers are not required to list a property address, but instead are only required to provide a legal description of the property,” she said.

“If a property address is not provided, we do not capture data regarding an address. Even if a property address is provided, it may not accurately reflect the municipality in which the property lies. One example is that a Scarsdale postal address could be in the Town of Scarsdale or the City of New Rochelle.”

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