In 2012, foreclosure activity increased by 57 percent from a year earlier in the 212 metro markets tracked by RealtyTrac, indicating that some cities are unblocking the pipeline of distressed properties and opening up deals to buyers and investors. Tampa, Fla., led the markets with a whopping 80-percent hike in foreclosure activity in 2012.
Of the 212 markets with a population of 200,000 or more, 120 saw an increase in foreclosures. Foreclosure activity rose in eight of the 20 largest cities: After Tampa, the markets with the highest increases were Miami (36 percent), Baltimore (34 percent), Chicago (30 percent) and New York (28 percent).
Foreclosure activity decreased in 12 of the 20 largest metro areas: Phoenix was down 37 percent, followed by San Francisco (30 percent), Detroit (26 percent) and Los Angeles and San Diego, both down 24 percent.
Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, attributed the increase in activity to markets finally taking steps to move distressed properties onto the market. It's a good time for investors and potential homebuyers to look for deals, Blomquist says: "The underlying fundamentals in many of those markets are slowly improving, making it an opportune time to absorb additional foreclosure inventory this year -- and that is particularly good news for buyers and investors hungry for more inventory to purchase in those markets."
Best places to buy foreclosures
Based on the percentage of foreclosure sales; supply of distressed inventory; foreclosure discounts and the increase in foreclosure activity in 2012, RealtyTrac analyzed which metro areas with a population of 500,000 or more were the best places to buy this year.
Six Florida metro areas were in the top 20, including Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville on the east coast of the state, which made the No. 1 spot on the complete list of the best places to buy foreclosures. The other Florida metro markets were Lakeland, Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando and Miami.
New York fared well on the list of best places to buy, with five cities in the top 20: Rochester, Albany, New York, Poughkeepsie and Syracuse. Other cities include Chicago; El Paso, Texas; Philadelphia; Allentown, Pa.; Youngstown, Ohio; Bridgeport, Conn.; Cleveland; New Haven, Conn., and Indianapolis.
The worst place to buy foreclosed property is McAllen, Texas. The western part of the country dominated the list of the worst cities to find a deal on a foreclosure, including Ogden, Utah; Las Vegas; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; San Jose, Calif., and Honolulu.