Maryland's filings increase last year, bucking trend

Foreclosure filings have fallen throughout the Washington area in the last two years, according to a report released Thursday, but Maryland saw its foreclosure rate tick back up in 2012.

Maryland is the only state in the region that went against the national trend and saw foreclosures increase in 2012, with filings increasing 19 percent, according to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac.

"Maryland just has been very slow. It's been very hard to actually do foreclosures," said Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University.

In July 2010, Maryland passed a law meant to help homeowners avoid impending foreclosures. The law forced lenders to demonstrate that they made an effort to modify the original loan. It also required banks to pay $300 for each foreclosure notice they filed.

Those measures, some economists believe, simply delayed many homes from going into foreclosure.

"At some point you've got to face the music, and I think the banks have been allowed now to go to foreclosure," Fuller said.

Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics, told Maryland lawmakers Tuesday that the state's slow judicial process for resolving foreclosures had slowed the state's economy.

Despite last year's increase, Maryland has seen its foreclosures plunge almost 60 percent since 2010. Home to foreclosure-rife Prince George's County, the state ranks better than Virginia in the report by RealtyTrac, coming in 36th compared with Virginia at 29th. One in every 139 homes received foreclosure filings last year in Maryland.

At 29th, Virginia stands near the middle of the pack nationally. One in every 124 homes there received foreclosure filings in 2012, a 47 percent drop since 2010. Little progress was made in 2012, however, when the state saw only a 0.79 percent slip in foreclosure filings.

Nationally, one out of every 72 homes in the United States had foreclosure filings. That's down to 1.39 percent of housing units from 1.45 percent in 2011 and 2.23 percent in 2010.

The District had the most-improved foreclosure scenario in the region. Its foreclosure rate dropped 92 percent since 2010, and only one in every 1,777 homes received a foreclosure filing during 2012.

If the District received a ranking, it would place 50th, just before North Dakota, which has the lowest foreclosure rate in the nation with one house with a foreclosure filing for every 2,668 homes.

"It's much more of a rental market in the District, so you have a somewhat smaller population to begin with," Fuller said.

"The mortgage companies were more careful in the District because they either had really good customers or customers they were worried about."

The foreclosure filings monitored by RealtyTrac include default notices, scheduled actions and bank repossessions.