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Foreclosure numbers continue to shrink across country

Foreclosures in the U.S. are now down to pre-recession rates. According to a recent report, the rate of new foreclosure filings has fallen to its lowest level since 2006. At the same time, property values are on the incline, which has allowed many homeowners who were underwater to get rid of some negative equity and ultimately sell their houses. While things are looking up for the country at large, it is true that many people here in Florida are still struggling.

In the fourth quarter of 2013, the Miami metropolitan area posted the highest foreclosure rate among the nation's top markets. Its foreclosure inventory rate was 10.34 percent. In Tampa, the foreclosure inventory rate was high as well at 8.71 percent. Nationwide, the rate of loans that are somewhere in the foreclosure process is 2.86 percent.

However, one reason that foreclosure rates tend to be high in Florida is the fact that lenders may not repossess homes here without court approval. This means that homes tend to stay in the foreclosure process for a longer period of time. In some cases, this gives homeowners the window of opportunity that they need to obtain a mortgage modification.

Mortgage modifications are rarely easy to obtain and banks are not required to offer them. Bankruptcy is another way that some homeowners are able to rid themselves of debt and prevent foreclosure. Florida residents may benefit from talking to a bankruptcy attorney about their unique situations in order to determine which option may be best for them.

Source: Bloomberg, "Foreclosure Starts Fall to 2006 Levels as Home Prices Rise," Prashat Gopal, Feb. 20, 2014

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