Foreclosure sales, distress sales up in Georgia

Forty-six percent of Georgia home sales in the first quarter of 2012 were foreclosures or distress sales, according to estimates from RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed property.

That is up about 15 percentage points from the first quarter of 2011.

A distress sale is often a short sale, when a bank accepts an offer for a house that is less than is owed on the mortgage.

Georgia lagged only Nevada, where 56 percent of sales were foreclosures or distress sales, and California with 47 percent.

Arizona followed with 40 percent, and Michigan had 39 percent to round out the top five.

Georgia has been a top state for foreclosures, though the number of foreclosure notices sent out monthly has been dropping from its height in 2010, according to Kennesaw's Equity Depot, a real estate tracking firm. Notices are a first step in the legal process and do not necessarily end with a foreclosure.

Brandon Moore, CEO of RealtyTrac, said the number of foreclosed properties sold nationally dropped 15 percent from the same time last year, while the number of distress sales picked up 25 percent.

"Lenders are approving more aggressively priced short sales, which in turn is resulting in more successful short-sale transactions," he said.

Foreclosures often cost banks money in legal fees and upkeep.

According to First Multiple Listing Service, a for-sale listing business, about 42 percent of metro Atlanta sales were foreclosure-related sales in the first quarter of 2012. The majority of them were in areas farther out, such as Walton, Paulding, Rockdale and south Fulton counties.