From Sarah Prohaska @ the Palm Beach Post.
'FORT PIERCE — For months, a ceaseless routine has gripped the St. Lucie clerk of court's civil office: New mortgage foreclosure lawsuits arrive in unprecedented numbers - huge stacks, some a foot or 2 tall. But as soon as one stack is processed and emptied from the in-box, another dozen or more foreclosures show up the next day.
On really busy mornings, process servers drop off banks' boxes filled with these documents, which set into motion a process that often means homeowners who haven't paid their mortgages will lose their homes.'
Wow - this is the first, honest-to-goodness picture of the true state of housing in our state. Of course, Foreclosure.com and RealtyTrac have also been talking about it, but this really illuminates. And the comparisons to very recent history (when the REIC was blathering on and on that there was no bubble and the sky-high valuations were supported by "solid fundamentals") are spot on.
'The clerks who process the cases shake their heads when they think back to the days when maybe two or three mortgage foreclosure lawsuits arrived each day. They don't have to stretch their memories much: That was only about a year and a half ago.
But now, it's a different scene inside the clerk's circuit civil division across the street from the St. Lucie County Courthouse. As 2006 unfolded, the number of new St. Lucie mortgage foreclosure filings surged upward, culminating in a yearly total of 1,329 cases. That's a more than a 170 percent increase from 2005's total of 485 cases, according to the clerk's office.
Take this snapshot: On Wednesday, the last day of February, the St. Lucie clerk's office received 30 new foreclosure cases. That single day accounted for more cases than the office received in the entire month of October in 2004, according to the office's records.
The trend is playing out across the nation, but some analysts say markets such as St. Lucie County, which enticed a lot of speculative buyers during the sizzling real estate boom a few years ago, are experiencing the biggest increases in delinquencies and foreclosures.'
Exactly. Along with Arizona and California, the state of Florida is the third member of what I like to call the housing bubble-bust triumvirate. All three states had the greatest appreciation over the past 5 years, and as a result all three created the greatest disparity between median incomes and median prices. It takes no rocket scientist to forecast that the triumvirate are also going to experience the greatest shock as the supply and demand curves snap back together.
Back to St. Lucie. Some causes and effects of the fallout.
'St. Lucie officials offer several reasons why the real estate boom has given way to a foreclosure boom:
• The slowing housing market, where owners are realizing their homes are not worth what they thought they were or the homes were over-appraised;
• Adjustable-rate mortgages, which drew in buyers with initial low interest rates that recently have increased substantially;
• Rising insurance rates and property taxes.
Those are the catalysts, many say, for the record number of lawsuits banks have filed to recover their money - and the fallout in St. Lucie, and many other Florida counties, has landed squarely on the clerk office's doorstep.
"In all the years I've done this, I've never seen this many foreclosures," said Nancy Bennett, supervisor of St. Lucie's circuit civil clerks division, who has worked in the office for more than 20 years. "It has never been like this."'
And seriously, with record #s of empty houses and sales dropping like a rock all over the Sunshine State, does anyone believe this is going to get any better in 2007? In 2008?