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Foreclosed Homes Sell at 27% Discount as Supply Grows

June 30, 2010, Dan Levy, Bloomberg Businessweek

Homes in the foreclosure process sold at an average 27 percent discount in the first quarter as almost a third of all U.S. transactions involved properties in some stage of mortgage distress, according to RealtyTrac Inc.

A total of 232,959 homes sold in the period had received a default or auction notice or were seized by banks, RealtyTrac said in a report today. That's down 14 percent from the fourth quarter and 33 percent from the peak a year earlier, the company said. The average price of a distressed property was $171,971, according to the Irvine, California-based data seller.

"The discount will probably stay between 25 percent and 30 percent as lenders carefully manage the number of new foreclosure actions in order to avoid flooding the market," Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac's senior vice president for marketing, said in an interview.

"We're clearly creating more properties that will be sold at distressed prices than the market is absorbing," Sharga said. There were more than 250,000 new bank seizures in the first quarter.

The discount reflects the average sales price of homes in the foreclosure process compared with the average sales price of properties not in distress. About 31 percent of all U.S. sales in the quarter were of homes in some stage of foreclosure, RealtyTrac said.

Rising Seizures

Home foreclosures set a record for the second straight month in May, with increases in every state, as lenders stepped up property seizures, RealtyTrac said earlier this month. Bank repossessions climbed 44 percent from a year earlier and will probably set a record in the second quarter, the company said.

Distressed sales totaled more than 1.2 million last year, a 25 percent increase from 2008 and a more than four-fold rise from 2007, according to RealtyTrac.

Such transactions accounted for 29 percent of all sales last year, up from 23 percent in 2008 and 6 percent in 2007. The average foreclosure discount was 25 percent in 2009, 22 percent in 2008 and 26 percent in 2007.

A "normal" market would show foreclosures accounting for less than 2 percent of sales, Sharga said.

Bank-owned properties sold for an average 34 percent discount in the first quarter, up from 32 percent both in the previous quarter and a year earlier. Such properties accounted for 19 percent of all U.S. home sales, up from almost 16 percent in the fourth quarter and down from 21 percent in the first quarter of 2009, RealtyTrac data show.

Short Sales

Properties in default or scheduled for auction sold for an average discount of almost 15 percent, up from almost 14 percent in the previous quarter and down from 16 percent a year earlier. These homes are often sold in short sales, where lenders accept less than the outstanding loan amount for the property, RealtyTrac said. Sales of properties either in default or headed for auction accounted for 12 percent of all sales.

The average price was $154,740 for bank-owned properties and $199,950 for homes in default or scheduled for auction, RealtyTrac said.

"The competing forces will be bank-owned properties and short sales," Sharga said. "The more short sales, the lower the average discount is likely to be."

Nevada had the highest proportion of distressed sales of any U.S. state, with 64 percent of all transactions involving properties in mortgage distress.

California ranked second, with such sales accounting for 51 percent of all sales and Arizona was third at 50 percent.

Discounts on distressed homes were highest in Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois, where they sold for an average of at least 39 percent less than non-foreclosures.

RealtyTrac sells default data from more than 2,200 counties representing 90 percent of the U.S. population.