According to legal notices published in the Marietta Daily Journal today, 387 properties are scheduled to be up for auction in December, a decrease of more than 27 percent from the 533 properties that were listed for November.
The amount of foreclosed properties is a 46 percent drop from the 718 homes that were on the action block in December 2012.
So far in 2013, 5,652 properties have been advertised for auction. This is down 46 percent from the 10,473 properties that were advertised during the same period a year ago.
According to a report in October by The Atlanta Regional Commission, a planning and intergovernmental agency for the 10-county area, the foreclosure rate has returned to levels not seen since 2006, before the Great Recession began.
This year alone, every county in the metro area has fewer foreclosure filings in 2013 than in 2012, according to the ARC report.
Mike Alexander, ARC’s research and analytics division manager, said the new numbers are great economic news.
“The foreclosure crisis has definitely abated,” Alexander said.
Alexander said Atlanta has been at the top of the nation in job growth for two months, which is a good indicator that the foreclosure rate will not go back up.
Still, Atlanta ranks 38 out of 100 metro areas for properties that are “seriously delinquent,” which are 90 days past due or already in the foreclosure inventory, Alexander said.
But that delinquency amount is also falling dramatically, with Atlanta seventh on the list for the biggest drop in the rate, Alexander said.
The cost of foreclosures
Month after month, homes in Cobb County have been auctioned off on the steps of the Cobb courthouse in downtown Marietta.
Legal notices for foreclosures are posted for four consecutive Fridays before a property can be sold at auction. Foreclosure sales begin at 10 a.m. on the first Tuesday of the month.
These years of high foreclosure rates have come with a cost that will continue to change neighborhoods in the area, said Tim Franzen, an organizer with Occupy Our Homes ATL.
Occupy Our Homes ATL is a grassroots organization launched in May 2011 to empower residents impacted by the housing crisis to take on banks and fight eviction.
Franzen, who has led some demonstrations on the courthouse steps, said he owns a home in Marietta, which he started renting after accepting a job in Atlanta. Franzen said he could not afford the commute.
The mortgage he had on the house was “underwater,” meaning it was worth less than what Franzen owed the bank, so he decided to rent it out at a loss, he said.
Franzen said the overall news on the housing front is good and even the value of his home has gone up.
“When looking at who’s buying, it becomes scary,” Franzen said.
A new housing bubble emerging?
Franzen said corporations and private equity groups are buying up hundreds of thousands of homes around metro Atlanta to rent out. Many have access to cash from offshore financial interests in China, Japan, Europe and Dubai.
“Their goal is to buy these homes and put in as little as possible to renovate them,” Franzen said.
One global player Franzen points to as active in the Atlanta suburbs is New York City-based Blackstone Mortgage Trust, a real estate finance company with offices in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Blackstone created Invitation Homes in 2012 to purchase, renovate and lease distressed single-family homes.
Invitation Homes, which has a regional office in Atlanta, states on its website that “Our goal is to be the globally recognized brand pioneering and shaping the newly emerging single-family home rental industry into a top-tier experience and lifestyle.”
As of Thursday, 46 houses were listed on the website for rent in Cobb County, mostly three- and four-bedroom homes with rents ranging from $1,000 to more than $1,500 a month.
Franzen said large companies are buying homes in bundles to create a new market in the housing sector.
“They have spent millions of dollars buying up these bank-owned vacants,” Franzen said.
Franzen believes this is the same type of manipulation that crashed the housing market when the Great Recession started in 2008.
“The same ones who crashed the economy are benefiting from it,” Franzen said. “One thing that all bubbles have in common is that they pop.”