Foreclosures: Up, Up, and Away!

Aubrey Cohen is on a roll, reporting the uncomfortable truth about the local housing market (granted, with a slight sugar-coating). The latest report is on the ever-increasing number of foreclosures in the Seattle area, another fact that is conveniently ignored by Elizabeth Rhodes at the Seattle Times.

The Seattle area continued to follow the national trend in May of more people facing foreclosure, but still stayed below the national rate, according to statistics released Tuesday.The Seattle area, defined as King and Snohomish counties, recorded 832 foreclosure filings in May, up 9.5 percent from April and 76.6 percent from May 2006, according to RealtyTrac, an Irvine, Calif., company that tracks foreclosure filings.

The Seattle-area rate of one filing for every 1,176 households in May was well below the national rate of one per 656 households and good for 131st among U.S. metro areas, down from 128th in April.

The large year-to-year increase in May was mostly the result of an unusually low number of filings in King County in May 2006. Seattle-area filings are up 15.8 percent for the year through May from the same period last year.

Filings for the state in May were up 21 percent from April and 40 percent from May 2006. Its rate of one filing per 1,153 households put it 20th among states, up from 23rd in April.

Nationally, May’s foreclosure filings were up 19 percent from April and up nearly 90 percent from May 2006.

“After a barely perceptible dip in April, foreclosure activity roared back with a vengeance in May,” James Saccacio, RealtyTrac’s chief executive, said in a statement accompanying the numbers.

“Such strong activity in the midst of the typical spring buying season could foreshadow even higher foreclosure levels later in the year.”

It isn’t that difficult to do the math. Unaffordable mortgages + stagnating appreciation (or even *gasp* depreciation) = increasing foreclosures. For a graphical look at the recent spike in local foreclosures, I present this graph, derived from data harvested from foreclosure.com by the vigilant Bubble Markets Inventory Tracking blog. Credit for the idea for this graph goes to the statistical powerhouse Deejayoh, whose posts on the forum are not to be missed.

The green line represents the ratio of foreclosures to preforeclosures, which as you can see has shot up in the last few months from less than 10% to over 40%. Could this be the beginning of an unpleasant and rapid spike, or is there some reasonable, one-time explanation for the sudden jump?

I just keep going back to that simple equation above.

(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 06.12.2007)

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1


    I’m not kidding, The Seattle Times, our respected MSM local truth source on all that is greedy and ripe in real estate, tells us not to buy cheap foreclosed homes. They assert its not moral. Here’s an excerpt:

    “I’ve heard about people offering ridiculously low amounts for houses, way below market value,” Ballard says. “And sometimes people accept these offers because they are desperate.

    ” I just couldn’t do that. You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror.”

    The rest of the URL:


  2. 2
    Joel says:

    Also, no matter how desperately you need to sell your home, DO NOT lower your asking price. Doing so will hurt the values of your neighbors’ homes who need rapid appreciation in order to buy a boat and an Escalade to tow it. Believe me, you won’t be able to look at yourself in the mirror if your neighbor can’t buy that boat.

  3. 3
    Eleua says:

    Coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

    I’m sure those in Ft. Meyers thought they were immune from price declines.

    Notice that the new buyers have no problem looking in the mirror. Contrast that with the original buyers.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    AndyMiami says:

    Just wait and see what happens when ARMs reset while interest rates increase..there are sharks in the water’s of Lake Washington…

  6. 6
    TJ_98370 says:

    DJO deserves a raise!

  7. 7
    BanteringBear says:

    From the Seattle Times article on rents:

    “Delridge has long provided affordable housing in an overlooked, almost rural pocket of Seattle. Tucked in a forested valley between West Ridge, the city’s highest point, and the Duwamish River, it’s been home to shipbuilders, longshoremen and steelworkers, then waves of Asian, Latino and African immigrants…But that is changing as the area becomes more affluent. “People have discovered Delridge,” said Ron Angeles, a Delridge native who works for the city’s Department of Neighborhoods…Delridge has gone from sleepy hollow to a “gem in the rough,” said Dave Kirzinger, a partner in Mosaic Homes, a British Columbia-based company that bought West Ridge Park this year for $33.8 million.”

    Forgive me while I go puke. Delridge?! Gimme a break already. My great aunt and uncle lived on Delridge. It was always a high crime area, and we were worried about them as they grew older. Now it’s a “gem in the rough”? These puking developers have got some nerve. They blow into town buying up the cheapest real estate they can find, and tout it as some new paradise. Well, I’ve got news. There is no such thing as a city with no bad neighborhoods, and it’s going to stay that way. Sure, you can put some lipstick on a pig, but it doesn’t hide the smell, and only lasts a short while. Anybody who proclaims that Delridge will be some new hip area, especially when their financial interests depend on it, is both a liar and a fool. Look for those new condos to emerge as “repartments” when these greedy scumbags realize that nobody wants to spend a quarter of a million dollars on an apartment in the ghetto.

  8. 8
    Shawn says:

    Florida 2005 = Seattle 2007

    While there is a fine line between boom and bubble, we still believe that most of the rise in Florida’s housing values can be explained by basic economic and demographic forces. Quite simply, prices are rising rapidly throughout most parts of Florida because the demand for single-family homes is vastly outpacing supply.

    Florida has also enjoyed exceptionally strong job growth throughout recent years. With job and income growth handily outpacing the rest of the country, Florida has
    tended to pull job seekers in from other states.

    Supply Has Been Constrained By Growth Management Initiatives.

    For all the talk about speculators, there is at least one surprising statistic that tends to downplay some concerns. The latest data from LoanPerformance.com show that just
    14.3% of the mortgage loans made in Dade County were interest-only loans. By contrast, the national average in 2004 was 22.9%.

    Overall sales will remain strong through the end of the decade.

    Higher home prices will not snuff out Florida’s housing boom.


  9. 9
    Alan says:

    I honestly get the impression that all of the press about rents rising is an attempt to generate implicit collusion by landlords. I’ve been looking for a rental recently and most of the corporate places do seem to be very expensive. The prices set by private owners are much better. I just signed a lease for a place 2 miles from work for $1.03/sqft including WSG.

  10. 10
    LoneLibertarian says:

    This is kind of OT but…. I was at the bank today and I overheard a lady talking to the banks mortgage guy and she said she was taking a HELOC to go on vaction in VEGAS.

    I guess gambling on houses and gambling in vegas really is the same thing.

  11. 11
    CCG says:

    Dear Seattle Times: my rent continues to go nowhere. In addition to the hundreds of rentals I see on CL, I counted 10 cranes between South Lake Union and downtown on the way home tonight, so it looks like there’s plenty more supply soon to be thrown on the market. Meanwhile, as the ARM reset tsunami arrives and the light finally dawns that years of stupid money has the same ending here and now as it does everywhere else on earth throughout history, I have plenty of cash stockpiled to make my lowball offers. Does that anger you? Do you find it immoral? Do you hate that my rent continues to sit despite your endless screeching for it to go up, up, up?


  12. 12
    CKT says:

    Any idea what’s happening as far as foreclosures go in Peirce County? From what I understand, they had one the highest rates of subprime loans in the state. Given that the first wave of the ARM reset tsunami CCG mentioned is mostly subprime, I would imagine things might be even harder in Pierce than in SnoKing.

  13. 13
    CKT says:

    I think I may have found a little bit of a hint of what’s happening in Pierce county. According to the foreclosure website through Yahoo, 75 houses have been put up for foreclosure in the last week, and 49 of those listed in the LAST TWO DAYS! Yow-za…

  14. 14
    CKT says:

    sorry, those data are just from Tacoma. I don’t know what the data looks like county wide.

  15. 15
    EconE says:

    I wonder what area will end up being the Salinas, CA of WA

  16. 16


    I’ll be clearly pragmatic.

    Thank about it. We’re currently OVERPOPULATING the Seattle area with MASSES of lower wage foreign guest workers and illegal aliens; i.e., diluting our city’s GDP and expecting fringe financing and buffoon buyers to save the day for real estate. That’s like serving a pot pie for your family at home and three more suddenly appear from no-where and sit at the table and you expect the pieces for everyone to magically get BIGGER. It just ain’t gonna happen, not with America’s Q1 0.6% GDP growth and Lord Only Knows what surprise Q2 will have for us [Dr.Roubini predicts worse than Q1].

    I know, Boeing will magically get trillions of $$$dollars of new orders and the country of Washington will emerge isolated from the rest of America as a rich separate entity state. Yeah right.

    The facts are, Boeing gets new orders, but outsources almost all the NEW work overseas, how do you think they got the new orders? How does that help Seattle real estate?

    If you disagree with me, please send me the disagreement source in writing, so I can check it out. I’m an open minded guy, fire away.

    Now, buy European Bonds, not Seattle Real Estate, why you ask? Dr. Roubini predicts a long hard landing for American real estate due to subprime loans and so do I. This will hit Asia hard too, since they depend on Americans spending. Europe on the otherhand is Euro based currency, so as the dollars devalue, your European bonds gain interest in Euros and ya get to cash the Euro interest in for even more devalued American dollars.

    Europe has a secret that most American MSM apparently can’t grasp. They’re currently taking over the world’s technological innovation and simulataneously controlling their population growth with higher wages than Americans too. Did you hear me MSM?

  17. 17
    deejayoh says:

    Thank about it. We’re currently OVERPOPULATING the Seattle area with MASSES of lower wage foreign guest workers and illegal aliens; i.e., diluting our city’s GDP and expecting fringe financing and buffoon buyers to save the day for real estate.

    I’m not sure I agree with this. Our population growth, from every historical look at the last 10 years I have seen, and from every forecast for the next ten – is 1%/year, +/- a few tenths. Check the census, Seattle and KingCo web sites. Hardly overpopulation. And while some of these may be foreign workers – from what I have seen at Microsoft those that are on H1b visas are making good coin. Some may be illegals, but there are hardly the numbers you would find in California, Arizona, or Texas. Sounds like hyperbole.

    The facts are, Boeing gets new orders, but outsources almost all the NEW work overseas, how do you think they got the new orders? How does that help Seattle real estate?
    This is totally true. I looked up how many workers Boeing hired for the 787. According to the Everett Herald, they hired 1100 workers for the new assembly line, and they can build one plane every three days. So as the 787 takes share from other lines… guess what – you are looking at turning 10 jobs into one. I guess the other 9 can start building houses?

  18. 18



  19. 19
    Alan says:

    I see as many people who look Hispanic working in minimum wage jobs here as I did in Texas.

  20. 20
    deejayoh says:


    a) easy on the caps lock, cowboy
    b) That’s not true w/r/t the census. They may be undercounted, but illegals are absolutely included.

  21. 21
    deejayoh says:

    I see as many people who look Hispanic working in minimum wage jobs here as I did in Texas.

    Regarding that, See if this link works

  22. 22
    Alan says:

    Thanks, deejaoh. That confirms the observations I’ve seen.

    Note that not all of those “People Born in Mexico” are illegal. Many of them were granted Amnesty and citizenship during the Reagan years. Others were born here to illegal parents, but since they were born here they are citizens.

    And not all of the illegals are Mexican. I hear stories about illegal immigrants from places like Ireland who aren’t picked up when work places are raided by the INS because they look “American” while all of the Mexicans they pick up are actually here legally.

  23. 23
    Eleua says:

    Others were born here to illegal parents, but since they were born here they are citizens.

    Only because we read an unintended, twisted meaning to the 14th Amendment. The text and original intent of the 14th Amendment only grants birthright citizenship to people that are here lawfully, not invaders. It was passed to ensure emancipated slaves were granted citizenship, not a free-for-all for Mexicans.

    And not all of the illegals are Mexican. I hear stories about illegal immigrants from places like Ireland who aren’t picked up when work places are raided by the INS because they look “American” while all of the Mexicans they pick up are actually here legally.

    While I am sure that there may be at least one instance of what you are saying, I seriously doubt it makes up even 1% of the reality confronting ICE. Almost all of our IAs are Latin Americans or Middle-Easterners that overstay their VISAs.

    If we can’t employ a little common sense (ie, racial profiling) when it comes to immigration enforcement, we are more screwed than I thought.

    This is a sore spot of mine. We strip search middle aged, white people that speak perfect English wearing pilot uniforms with the corresponding credentials as they attempt to enter an airport, but allow young Middle-Easterners to pass TSA or work on the airport ramp without a second look. I am not making this up.

    I was f-ing furious when TSA grilled my 9yo, blonde, blue-eyed daughter because she had a water bottle in her pink Barbie backpack. I (her father) was not allowed to be present for her interrogation. After 5 minutes of interrogation and documentation, the TSA thug allowed a sobbing wreck of a girl to join the rest of her family.

    I put up with this crap everytime I go to work. I expect to get grilled by a 300#, 5′-5″ female TSA agent with the personality of a rattlesnake at Chicago-ORD who just lives to show a white pilot that she has authority. It’s me, and I can take it, because it happens all the time. But when they go after a 9yo girl with all their weight, I want to go postal. I could sue (for whatever good it would do), but the end result would probably be my name on a “no-fly” list, and if that happens I’m out of a job.

    Yes, they need to be careful that a 9yo, blonde, blue-eyed girl carrying a Barbie backpack, travelling with her two little brothers, and parents coming out of Kauai on return airline tickets isn’t part of the latest al-Queida threat to blow up a B717 with 250ml of the most abundant substance on the planet. I’m glad they are on it.

    I’m sure she had ample time in her busy schedule of learning the flute, piano, and a full load of 4th grade school work to fly to Afghanistan and take al-Queida training in the myriad of ways to assemble plastic explosives on a 30 minute flight from Lihue to Honolulu. All while being supervised by her x-Navy officer father that held TS clearances and commanded a crew that could carry nuclear weapons.

    I’d better stop, or I’ll have an aneurysm. I marvel that this nation split the atom and put a man on the moon.

    Yes, racial profiling is an ugly thing. Unfortunately, patterns of law violations can break along racial lines – ESPECIALLY IMMIGRATION VIOLATIONS!!!!. The surrounding circumstances and the sound judgment of field officers should be used.

    If I’m an ICE official and raiding a sweatshop in South Boston, I’m looking for Irish guys (and Mexicans). If I’m raiding a cotton plantation in Alice, Texas, I’m probably not going to find many Norwegian illegals. Guess who I’m looking for?

    If a cross gets burned on the front lawn of a black family that lives in an almost exclusively white neighborhood, should the FBI interview: Cambodians? 6 old guys watching Matlock? Muckleshoot Tribals? The unemployed white guys in the F150 with the NASCAR sticker blaring “Freebird” at 130db? I’m not saying they did it, just it is prudent to deploy limited resources where they will do the most good.

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