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Originally published July 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 25, 2008 at 8:52 AM

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Seattle foreclosure activity up, but still much lower than much of nation

Seattle-area foreclosure activity remains far below the U.S. average as foreclosures nationwide climb.

Seattle Times business reporter

Hard hit by foreclosures

Western cities among the leaders

Washington cities are far down list of top 100 metro areas in rate of foreclosure activity.

No. 1: Stockton, Calif.

No. 2: Riverside/San Bernardino, Calif.

No. 3: Las Vegas/Paradise

No. 4: Bakersfield, Calif.

No. 5: Sacramento, Calif.

No. 6: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

No. 7: Phoenix/Mesa

No. 8: Oakland, Calif.

No. 9: Fresno, Calif.

No. 10: Miami

No. 43: Tacoma

No. 67: Portland/Vancouver/Beaverton

No. 83: Seattle/Bellevue/Everett

Source: RealtyTrac

Will Seattle's housing market eventually mirror California's and sink amid a sea of foreclosures? That's what some real-estate watchers have argued.

But in fact, new numbers show that while Seattle/Bellevue/Everett area foreclosure filings are rising, the Emerald City is behaving more like New York City than anywhere in the Golden State.

Seattle is 83rd in foreclosure activity among 100 metro markets, and New York City is 84th.

That puts both cities far behind the leaders in a national tide of growing foreclosures: California's Stockton and Riverside/San Bernardino markets, according to foreclosure-information provider RealtyTrac, which released second-quarter statistics today.

One in every 411 Seattle-area homeowners experienced a foreclosure filing last quarter, as did one in 432 New York metro-area owners.

In Stockton, by contrast, one in every 25 homeowners faced foreclosure; in Riverside/San Bernardino, one in every 32, RealtyTrac reported.

Eleven California cities, including Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego, were harder-hit than the national average of one in 171. Washington's hardest-hit city was Tacoma: one in 179 households

On a statewide basis, California was second in foreclosures, while Washington was 24th.

Nevada recorded the highest ratio of foreclosure activity. In the Las Vegas area, there were 21,742 foreclosure filings last quarter, or one in every 35 homes.

The worst may not be over.

"Although much of the fallout from foreclosures is being driven by rampant activity in a few states, such as Nevada, California, Florida, Ohio, Arizona and Michigan, most areas of the country are seeing at least some increase in foreclosure activity," RealtyTrac Chief Executive James Saccacio said in a statement.

Seattle and Tacoma were among them.

Seattle-area second-quarter foreclosures were up 17 percent compared with the first quarter of 2008, or slightly above the national average of 14 percent.

Compared with the second quarter of 2007, Seattle's filings were up 69 percent, substantially less than the national average increase of 121 percent. Seattle's increase was based on 2,616 filings.

Tacoma filings were up 14 percent from the first quarter (based on 1,732 filings), and up 113 percent over the second quarter of 2007.

By comparison, hard-hit Riverside/San Bernardino's filings were up 193 percent year over year, as 43,000 homes received filings.

Not all of these foreclosures will be completed, as some owners will sell their homes or make up missed payments.

"Bank repossessions accounted for 30 percent of total foreclosure activity in the second quarter, up from 24 percent of the total in the first quarter," Saccacio said.

He theorized this increase signals a shift in how foreclosures are playing out, indicating "there is a progression toward purging the problem loans out of the system, at which point the housing market can regain some sense of normalcy.

"Of course if another surge in defaults occurs, which could well happen later this year, it would refill the foreclosure pipeline and prolong the recovery," Saccacio said.

The foreclosure situation is generally blamed on a combination of factors including unsound mortgages, falling home prices and speculative home buying.

Elizabeth Rhodes: erhodes@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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