Foreclosures in region expected to be lowest in a decade, report says

| Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, 10:50 a.m.

Foreclosures are expected to fall to a decade low in the Pittsburgh region this year, according to a report issued Friday.

Through Nov. 25, there were 2,138 residential foreclosure sales that resulted in owners losing their homes, according to RealStats, a South Side-based real estate information company.

The total for the year is expected to fall below last year's total of 2,428 when foreclosures through yearend are added.

The average for the last month of the year is about 267, said Daniel A. Murrer, vice president, of RealStats, which tracks real estate information filed in five area counties.

The 2012 total will yield the lowest number for the region since 2001 when there were 2,043 foreclosure sales, Murrer said.

In addition, commercial foreclosures are expected to fall to a 13-year low with 303 through Nov. 25, down from 442 last year, the RealStats report said.

“The continued drop in foreclosures, both residential and commercial, combined with this year's surge in market activity, should lend confidence to (the residents of) Western Pennsylvania that our real estate market is strengthening,” Murrer said.

The top year for foreclosures for the five-county region was 2006 when 4,340 were recorded.

Several reasons combined to reduce foreclosure sales in the region.

“One is due to the county's conciliation program that started in 2009,” Allegheny County Sheriff William P. Mullen said.

The program has the homeowner and the lender attempt to resolve their problem in a meeting before a Common Pleas judge. More than 1,500 hearings have been held. A similar program has been conducted in Westmoreland County.

The biggest reason for the slowdown, Mullen said, was a lawsuit filed on behalf of residents of Allegheny County against lenders for failure to comply with state Act 91 that offers the option of a meeting between a homeowner and the lender prior to a sheriff's sale on the property.

In the lawsuit, Beneficial Consumer Discount Co. vs. (Pamela) Vukmam, State Superior Court in January upheld an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court decision that a foreclosure sale could not advance because a face-to-face meeting was not held. The plaintiff appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, which has not ruled.

“The final decision ... will determine whether these lenders will resume sending out foreclosure notices, that they've delayed doing,” Mullen said. “That will determine whether we see an increase or continued decrease in foreclosures in the future.”

Caren Bilotta, manager of housing for Advantage Credit Counseling Services, South Side, said other reasons for the lower foreclosure numbers are a Federal Housing Program that provides a refinancing option for homeowners whose mortgages are underwater.

“With the lower interest rates available, the homeowner can reduce the mortgage payment,” she said.

The RealStats report said the highest number of residential foreclosures this year will be in Allegheny County where 1,258 were recorded as of Nov. 25. At yearend, the total should be the lowest for the county since 2001, when 1,242 were recorded in the county.

Westmoreland County had 319 foreclosures as of the Nov. 25, and should end the year with the lowest since 313 in 2002, while Beaver County's 282 so far this year should end up with the lowest number since 2002 when 253 were recorded.

Washington County's had 167 through Nov. 25, and Butler County recorded 112.

Sam Spatter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7843 or

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