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State foreclosures up 174%


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POSTED: Thursday, February 12, 2009

The number of Hawaii homeowners in the process of losing their homes nearly tripled in January as the state grappled with its seventh straight month of triple-digit foreclosure rate increases, according to a nationwide survey released yesterday by RealtyTrac.

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Hawaii had 337 foreclosure filings in January, up 174 percent from the same month in 2008, according to RealtyTrac. The number of foreclosures per household in Hawaii also shot up in January to one in every 1,504 households. The state's monthly foreclosure total decreased 32 percent from December, but RealtyTrac said that the drop is more of an anomaly than an indicator of future improvements.

“;The odds for recovery are stacked against us,”; said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac's marketing communications manager. “;There are still so many risky loans out there and we've only just begun to see the impacts of rising unemployment.”;

Georgia Roberson, real estate-owned director for Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties, said that the number of Hawaii foreclosures she handled leveled off in December when lenders put a moratorium on new foreclosures. However, she's expecting to see activity build again in the spring.

“;We've been in a wait-and-see period and a lot is going to depend on what the government and lenders decide,”; she said. “;It's quiet now, but I think that we're really just starting this cycle.”;

While Roberson's foreclosure numbers are up over January and February of last year, she said that activity has built slowly compared to the late 1990s, when Hawaii foreclosures were skyrocketing.

“;Last year, I closed 48 foreclosure sales,”; Roberson said. “;In the late 1990s, I was closing 30 or 40 a month.”;

Still, the number of foreclosure, short sale and distressed property sales in Hawaii has grown as buyers who took on more debt than they could afford have begun to pay the price. The drop in home sales and values has made it more difficult for Hawaii homeowners who get into trouble today to save their homes through equity or a quick sale. The decline in Hawaii's lead tourism and construction industries and the rise in business closures and layoffs also could prolong recovery.

However, Hawaii has fared better than the nation as a whole. More than 2 percent of all U.S. households were in some stage of foreclosure last month. On the other hand, RealtyTrac reported that only 0.7 percent of Hawaii households were in foreclosure last month, ranking the state 30th nationwide.

Hawaii's foreclosure activity varied by neighborhood, but RealtyTrac reported that the most active neighborhoods were Honolulu, Ewa Beach, Kailua Kona, Kihei, Waianae, Kapolei, Kahului, Hilo, Lahaina, Wailuku, Waipahu and Waikoloa.

“;Very few neighborhoods are escaping the foreclosures completely, but if you look in some neighborhoods, you'll see just tons of activity,”; Blomquist said.