Central Ohio foreclosures dropped dramatically in 2013 as the housing market continued its climb out of a deep hole.

January 16, 2014

Central Ohio foreclosures dropped dramatically in 2013 as the housing market continued its climb out of a deep hole.

During the year, 14,685 foreclosure documents were filed in the eight-county central Ohio region. That was nearly 15 percent fewer than in the year before and well below the 2010 peak of nearly 20,000, according to the real-estate information service RealtyTrac.

Foreclosure filings in Ohio dropped 12 percent to their fewest since 2006. Nationally, 1.36 million foreclosure documents were filed - the fewest since 2007.

"Millions of homeowners are still living in the shadow of the massive foreclosure crisis," said RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist."But the shadow cast by the foreclosure crisis is shrinking."

The figures, released this morning, reflect an improving economy but show that housing is still far from normal.

Fewer than 40 percent of Ohio's foreclosure filings last year represented the first stage of foreclosure - the lender's lawsuit, RealtyTrac reported. The rest of the filings involved homes later in the process - either a sheriff's sale or a bank repossession.

In short, many homeowners at risk of losing their home already have endured foreclosure, but millions of homes remain mired in the foreclosure process.

According to RealtyTrac, lenders have foreclosed on about 11 million U.S. homes since 2006 but have repossessed only 5.6 million, or roughly half. The remaining homeowners have worked out a solution with the lender such as a short sale or loan modification, or remain in limbo - unable to sell but not yet hit by repossession.

Blomquist and others expect many of these homes to be put up for sale this year, as banks claim the homes to satisfy rising demand, especially among investors.

"Properties already in foreclosure are poised to exit in greater numbers in 2014," Blomquist said in a statement.

Buyers benefit when foreclosed homes are on the market because the homes tend to sell for less than other homes. But sellers of those other homes tend to lose because foreclosed homes mean more competition at lower prices.

RealtyTrac estimates that more than 70,000 Ohio homes are in some stage of foreclosure or have been repossessed by banks. If all those homes were to be sold this year, they would account for more than half of all expected sales.

Although some real-estate agents worry about banks flooding the market with foreclosed properties, others note that demand is high for such homes.

Ric Smith, a Century 21 Excellence Realty agent in Reynoldsburg who handles foreclosed properties, welcomed the possibility that more bank-owned properties will be put up for sale.

"I think any inventory that can be put on the market right now, bank-owned or otherwise, is a good thing," he said. "There's not a surplus of bank properties, or any other kinds of properties, right now."

RealtyTrac includes three documents in its tally - foreclosure lawsuits, sheriff's sales and bank repossessions - but its figures mirror other statistics that show a sharp drop in foreclosures. In Franklin County, 5,703 foreclosure cases were filed in 2013, down 24 percent from 2012. The number is the lowest since 2001, according to the county clerk.