Foreclosure notices remain at 2007 levels

Fewer foreclosures help the housing market stabilize, as home values begin to rise.

Credit: AP file

Credit: AP file

Fewer foreclosures help the housing market stabilize, as home values begin to rise.

Foreclosure notices in metro Atlanta are staying at six-year lows for the sixth consecutive month, a continued sign of improvement in the region’s housing market.

There were 4,751 foreclosure notices filed in 13 metro Atlanta counties in May, according to data from Kennesaw's Equity Depot. That's down 50 percent from the number advertised in May 2012 and 5 percent from April, when the period to file foreclosure notices was a week longer.

“This is the norm for now,” said Barry Bramlett, president and CEO of Equity Depot, which tracks monthly notices.

Although May's numbers are up from February and March, Bramlett said he does not expect a dramatic shift up or down in the number of notices filed in the near future. That could change, though, as rising home prices lead the hedge funds that have been buying large numbers of metro Atlanta homes to change strategies. For now, hedge fund purchases are still dramatically higher than they were a year ago, said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac.

» See the numbers: What RealtyTrac says about Atlanta real estate trends

Blomquist said the number of foreclosure notices is still unnaturally high, though it is significantly lower than the peak, when as many as 13,834 foreclosure notices were filed in a single month in 2010.

There may still be some distressed properties that banks are holding back from the foreclosure process, Blomquist said.

But as foreclosures stay at these lower levels, it benefits the region. Home prices rose 16.5 percent in February from the prior year, to their highest level in 18 months, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index. Higher prices are tied to lower inventory, which is coming in part from a reduction in foreclosures.

Fewer foreclosures help the housing market stabilize, as values begin to rise.

“We’re getting there,” Blomquist said. “In my mind, there’s more room to go down in Georgia.”