Foreclosures Ticked Up Slightly in January

It’s time once again to expand on our preview of foreclosure activity with a more detailed look at January’s stats in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties. First up, the Notice of Trustee Sale summary:

January 2012
King: 417 NTS, down 55.1% YOY
Snohomish: 235 NTS, down 50.9% YOY
Pierce: 282 NTS, down 48.3% YOY

Still down from a year ago, but all three counties ticked up in January. I suspect that low volumes will be the new norm for a while. Not because the foreclosures have all made it through the pipeline, but because the banks are being forced to actually take their time processing these.

Here’s your interactive Tableau dashboard updated with the latest foreclosure data:

The percentage of households in the chart above is determined using OFM population estimates and household sizes from the 2000 Census. King County came in at 1 NTS per 1,991 households, Snohomish County had 1 NTS per 1,166 households, and Pierce had 1 NTS for every 1,141 households (higher is better).

According to foreclosure tracking company RealtyTrac, Washington’s statewide foreclosure rate for December of one foreclosure for every 1,427 housing units was 33nd highest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Note that RealtyTrac’s definition of “in foreclosure” is much broader than what we are using, and includes Notice of Default, Lis Pendens, Notice of Trustee Sale, and Real Estate Owned.

I had been including a heat map of Washington counties from RealtyTrac on these posts each month, but they did something to their embedded map that was forwarding my site readers to a RealtyTrac registration page, which is not acceptable. So no more Washington State heat map.

Hit the jump for a larger version of the chart that shows the percentage of households in each county receiving a foreclosure notice each month:

Note: The graphs above are derived from monthly Notice of Trustee Sale counts gathered at King, Snohomish, and Pierce County records. For a longer-term picture of King County foreclosures back to 1979, hit this chart and drag the date slider to its full range. For the full legal definition of what a Notice of Trustee Sale is and how it fits into the foreclosure process, check out RCW 61.24.040. The short version is that it is the notice sent to delinquent borrowers that their home will be repossessed in 90 days.

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.


  1. 1
    deejayoh says:

    I have to say, your “Ticked up” headline compared to volumes that are down 50% YoY sounds like one we used to make fun of…

  2. 2
    The Tim says:

    RE: deejayoh @ 1 – Really, “ticked up slightly” comes across as sensationalist to you? I thought it was appropriate, considering that Pierce and Snohomish hit their highest levels of NTS since October, and King its second-highest (November was just barely higher). It’s not a big increase, which is why I used the words “ticked up” and not “shot up” or “surged.”

    Since we had been seeing a steady decline through most of 2011, I thought the slight rise over the last three months was worth noting.

  3. 3
    Basho says:

    Has the relationship between NTS’s and trustee deeds been stable over time?

  4. 4
    Scotsman says:

    I’m not expecting a big surge in new foreclosures, thinking we’ve reached an equilibrium of sorts. While the pipeline may still be bloated the number of additional new foreclosure candidates is relatively stable. And banks seem to be thinking it’s better to bleed off the current inventory, not just dump it all at once. Limitations on capital and reserve requirements also play into that strategy.

    I’ve been watching a number of known foreclosures, both sales and pending auctions, and not much is changing. The price reductions on the sales have stopped heading into the spring sales season. Much of the old inventory is finally selling and new inventory is nowhere to be seen.

    I think it’s going to be a long, slow year. Little inventory, fewer price declines, just bumping along in the bottom of a rut until something bigger happens in the macro environment.

    Interestingly, location may matter more now than it has over the past few years. Parts of the country are relatively stable, some are really hurting, some are staring future pain in the face, but not yet blinking. Seattle may be relatively stable. California has yet to fully adjust. Las Vegas continues to die, at least in most areas. Unlike the past where everything was headed in one direction- down- a little bit more thought is now required.

    Anything south of I-90 remains a wastland

  5. 5
    deejayoh says:

    RE: The Tim @ 2 – nah, not sensationalist. Just the tricky balance of m2m vs. yoy trends.

    But look at the chart, and draw a smoothed line through the months. Pretty clear the worst is over.

  6. 6
    deejayoh says:

    Look at this chart today from Calculated Risk

    Per MBA, 2% of WA mortages are “in foreclosure”. This is compared to a long run average of about 1.2%. So really, we are only about 0.8% over the long run average – and this is dropping. And dropping faster in WA than judicial states – which are the ones propping up the national averages.
    Tim’s chart shows that the rate of NTS at the front of the foreclosure pipeline has returned to a more normal level as well – at least consistent with the 2000-2005 time frame.

    The pig is passing through the snake.

    And the thing that is driving the appearance of banks moving slower is the fact that they are moving more aggressively against borrowers who haven’t been paying for a long time. When they finally move against these loans, it drives the averages up for time to foreclose. Doesn’t take too many loans that haven’t made payments in 12 to 18 months to drive up the overall averages for time to process.

  7. 7
    yosef says:

    RE: Scotsman @ 4

    “Anything south of I-90 remains a wastland”
    Um, kind of wish that were true. Gotta go further south before it’s a wasteland. Summerset, Newcastle, Mercer Island, all south of I-90, prices still feel very high and demand is strong.

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