Florida leads nation in foreclosures

Sunshine State lagging behind at more than twice national average

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Even as the housing outlook is brightening, Florida leads the nation in foreclosures, and Duval County is one of the counties with the most foreclosed homes.

The rankings tend to fluctuate from month to month, but although the national trend is getting better, the Sunshine State is still lagging behind.

RealtyTrac Inc. says one in 318 homes in Florida was in some stage of foreclosure in September. That's more than twice the national average and the first time Florida has had the nation's highest rate since April 2005.

Florida filings increased 17 percent in September from a year ago, even as foreclosures declined across the country.

Realtor Howard Flaschen explained why.

"We're a judicial state, so foreclosures have a lot longer pathway to get through the system than in a lot of states, especially out west, Arizona, California," Flaschen said.

Because of the lengthy court process, it takes an average of 858 days -- more than two years -- to complete a foreclosure in Florida. That's the second-longest timeline after New York and New Jersey.

Foreclosures slowed dramatically in late 2010 and for most of 2011 while lenders reviewed cases for possible paperwork errors.

"If you remember, a few years ago we had the 'robo-signings' sandal, and so everything kind of stopped, the bank stopped processing foreclosures," Flaschen said.

But banks have addressed those problems and are intent on clearing the backlog of cases.

"Most of these are not new foreclosures. Most of these are ones that have been deficient for years," Flaschen said. "A lot of these cases have been sitting in backlog for a very long time."

For those having trouble making payments, experts say get with a Realtor or a lender to get advice on a particular situation.

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