Foreclosure filings dropped again across Broward and Palm Beach counties, though some industry observers are waiting for the pace to pick up in the months ahead.
Lenders filed 238 new cases in Palm Beach County in October, down 52 percent from a year ago, according to the RealtyTrac listing firm.
Scheduled auctions – when a judge sets a date for the home to be foreclosed – and bank repossessions also dropped compared to October 2013. New cases were down 3 percent in Broward, from 720 to 698.
Auctions plummeted 60 percent, while bank repossessions fell 28 percent. "This appears to be good news, that courts and banks are working their way through the backlogs," Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac's vice president, said Wednesday.
Still, the South Florida metro area of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties -- one of the hardest-hit markets during the housing crash – had the nation's highest foreclosure rate in October, at one in 363 homes, RealtyTrac said. The region consistently ranks among the top five U.S. metros.
But Florida no longer has the highest foreclosure rate in the country, RealtyTrac said.
After 12 consecutive months in the top spot, Florida slipped to No. 2 in October, with a filing for one in every 444 homes during the month. Maryland now is No. 1 at one in every 400 homes.
While the numbers are trending downward, it wouldn't be a surprise to see another uptick in filings, said Tom Ice, a foreclosure defense attorney in Palm Beach and Broward counties.
Ice said some lenders have slowed down on filing cases to better understand a new foreclosure law that took effect in Florida last year. And because courts are exerting more control over how soon cases are heard and resolved, attorneys are holding off filing until they have all their paperwork in order, Ice said.
Most of the existing cases are left over from the housing bust, but even some homeowners who bought recently may be having trouble making mortgage payments, he said.
"Although housing prices have gone back up, generally wages and salaries haven't really increased," Ice said. "The word going around is that there is still a number of cases that are ripe for filing."