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Foreclosure Court Filings Down in First Quarter

The housing market may not be on its way to recovery just yet, but the number of foreclosure filings for the first quarter of the year are down significantly compared to the past two years.

According to the Office of State Courts Administrator, the number of foreclosure filings for January through April stand at 105,149. During that same period in 2009, there had been 143,936 filings and in 2008 there were 111,337 in that period.

“Is it where it could be?” asked Miami-Dade Judge Jennifer Bailey, who chaired a Florida Supreme Court task force on the foreclosure crisis. “No. Is it betting better? Yeah.”

The crush of foreclosure cases has been an ongoing problem for the penny- pinching state court system as the state budget situation worsened and there were fewer people to handle the massive amounts of paperwork associated with the foreclosures.

The result was a painful process for homeowners and lenders.

The number of cases was creating a huge backlog in courtrooms with cases that once took about three months getting dragged out to about six months. In 2007, the court recorded 182,044 foreclosure filings. In 2008, that number jumped to 368,742 and increased again in 2009 with 399,120 filings.

Bailey said the numbers in Miami-Dade follow the statewide trend, though there is still an immense caseload compared to several years ago when the housing market was booming.

At the order of the Florida Supreme Court, the local court systems have set up foreclosure mediation programs over the past several months to try to ease the process for all parties involved. The mediation process is trying to bring all the parties together before it ends up on the courtroom schedule.

Sometimes it works and the parties settle. Other times it doesn't.

“I believe we're seeing a whole lot more 'work-outs' than we were before,” Bailey said.

It's still too early to tell though if the mediation programs will have the desired impact overall, Bailey said. Some judicial circuits have just set up their programs, and even in Miami-Dade, which established a program before the Supreme Court ordered it, there are still a few hiccups.

Getting borrowers to the table has also been quite difficult in some cases because their landlines often have been disconnected and other contact information has not been provided. But for the cases where all sides can get to the table, it has been working out, Bailey added.

“For those institutions that have realized what an opportunity this is to keep their costs down, those cases are settling,” she said.

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