SCARSDALE, N.Y. – Foreclosure filings in Westchester County dropped by nearly 30 percent in March compared to February, drawing mixed reactions from local real estate experts.
There were 89 foreclosures – default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions – throughout the county last month, according to RealtyTrac.com That number is down from 123 in February and continues a downward trend over the past six months, the site reports.
But a number of brokers around the country and in Westchester are calling the decline a false lull. They say it has come as a result of foreclosure delays caused by documentation troubles at the banks.
“What I anticipate we will be seeing toward the end of this year is foreclosures pushed through the system,” said Mark Boyland, real estate agent for Keller Williams Realty in Bedford. “There will be more filings and more foreclosure dates.”
In February, five banks agreed to a $25 billion settlement with state authorities and the federal government as a result of the "robo-signing" foreclosure documentation scandal.
Many experts, including Boyland, believe the settlement will lead to a flood of new filings nationwide.
“I don’t see it having as big of an impact on us but some people think Westchester will be immune and nothing is further from the truth,” he said.
Boyland noted there are roughly 6,000 people in Westchester not paying mortgages, a number of which will be foreclosed on.
But others say the trending decline is evidence of more educated realtors and buyers. Jason Wilson, branch manager at Julia B. Fee Sotheby's International Realty in Scarsdale and host of 1230 AM real estate talk show “How’s the Market,” said Westchester buyers and realtors have gotten smarter in recent years.
Many are realizing that short-selling their homes may be a better alternative to foreclosure, Wilson said. A rise in short-selling could lead to foreclosure rates staying at a similar level or even dropping, he said.
“If consumers are properly educated, they won’t foreclose,” he said. “They short-sell and the banks won’t take inventory of their property.”
What realtors do agree on is that now is a good time to sell or buy a home. Interest rates are as low as they are going to go and prices are down roughly 30 percent, according to Boyland.
“Essentially, the cost of buying a home now is similar to what it was in the late 80s,” Boyland said.