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— Foreclosure activity continues to slow in Benton County - down 28.7 percent in November compared to a year ago - while Washington County reported 41.9 percent more foreclosure filings during the same period, according to Realtytrac.

Together the two counties recorded 657 foreclosure filings in November, affecting one in every 254 households, leading the state in distressed mortgages per capita.

Arkansas’ foreclosure filings totaled 1,572, up nearly 2 percent from last year, affecting one in 819 households. Nationwide, one in 417 households face possible foreclosure, up 19 percent from last year.

Financial experts say loan modifications and other foreclosure prevention efforts are keeping a lid on the most visible symptoms of the nation’s ailing housing market - foreclosures and declining home prices.

A full recovery will only come when unemployment returns to normal, healthy levels and when availability of credit reaches a more rational balance between the extremes of the past few years, said James Saccacio, Realtytrac chief operating officer.

Local economists expect foreclosure activity will flatten but remain higher than normal throughout the next year in both counties.

Benton County started its real estate correction ahead of Washington County by several months, according to Kathy Deck, director for the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas.

She said Benton County was more heated in terms of building activity and higher home prices which led to its rising foreclosure rate of the past two years, ahead of Washington County.

More recently the number of foreclosures in Benton County have started to recede, indicating baby steps in the right direction. Washington County filings have not yet begun to taper off .

The foreclosure pipeline includes three phases from the first missed mortgage payment, to the lender taking the property back via sale on the courthouse steps. There were 71 default notices filed in November in the twocounty area, up 18 percent from a year ago. Another 370 local homes were scheduled for auction, which compares to 458 trustee sales in the year ago period.

News, Pages 21 on 12/16/2009

Print Headline: Foreclosure activity mixed in Northwest Arkansas area

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