Bill Morris: Austin-Area Foreclosures Up?

Austin-Area Foreclosures Up?

In an interesting contrast to my post a couple of days ago about an October dip in local foreclosures, the lead article in the Austin American-Statesman's Saturday (11/14/09) Business section carried the headline:  "Region's foreclosures jump 57% in 2009."  I intended to include that feature on my Market News page ( but mysteriously the article, as far as I can determine, was not posted on  The substance of the print piece was that year-to-date foreclosure postings in the Austin area (including the 12/1/09 auction) are up substantially compared to the same time last year - with a total of 14,138 this year.  It was noted that "the numbers are inflated somewhat by repeat postings ...."

I am busy in the marketplace every day and I have represented buyers and sellers over the past couple of years from Walburg to Kyle and from Liberty Hill and Lago Vista to Taylor, Elgin, and Creedmoor.  I study the market constantly and I was genuinely surprised by the magnitude of the reported surge in foreclosures.  Until the "repeat postings" data is available, I decided to review actual closed sales of foreclosed properties using MLS data.

What I found was a total of 1762 transactions through October.  That compares to 1,068 at the same time last year, so the year over year difference is reasonable when extended to include November and December, but the total number does not make sense.

Granted, tax foreclosures were not sold through MLS listings (130 in Travis County through October according to the county's website, more in the other four counties in the metro area), but those might get the count up around  2,000 so far this year - compared to more than 14,000 according to yesterday's article??!!!

Thoroughly confused by comparing these two years, I decided to dig deeper.  Here is what I found over the past 5 years:

You can see the surge in 2009, and the month-to-month dip I wrote about a couple of days ago.  What was not mentioned in yesterday's article was that the numbers were actually about the same in 2006!  (1,709 through October, 2,033 for the year.)  Certainly, as a percentage of sales the magnitude of the problem is more significant in 2009, but in the two worst years in recent history we had nothing even remotely like 14,000 foreclosure sales.

I suppose it's possible that the December auction will include 12,000 properties.  Not!

Perhaps 1,000 of the foreclosed properties that will ultimately sell this year were each posted 12 times each.  I doubt it.

Maybe there have been thousands of tax seizures in Williamson, Bastrop, Hays, and Caldwell counties, but probably not.

What I know for certain today is that the data reported as fact in yesterday's newspaper, makes no sense at all.  I look forward to the revised data from the Foreclosure Listing Service, and I will discuss it here when it's available.

Bill F. Morris, ABR, CRS, CDPE, e-PRO, MBA
RE/MAX Capital City
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Comment balloon 2 commentsBill Morris • November 15 2009 02:12PM


Thanks for sharing your local information on this day. I love seeing local stats

Posted by Harry F. D'Elia III, Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR (RentVest) over 10 years ago

In college the first thing you learn in statistics class is that you can explain the numbers to benefit your argument. The author who stated the over 5% number has an agenda. (Over 50% could simply be a change from 1 to 3). Percentages are not numbers they are interpretations.

Your numbers paint a clearer picture than percentages. You could have said that transactions were up 164% of last year. But that still doesn't indicate value and/or price information.

This is another example for why people need to consult professionals and not rely on articles. The "information" on the Internet may not be.

Posted by Associate Broker Falmouth MA Cape Cod Heath Coker, Heath Coker Robert Paul Properties Falmouth MA ( & over 10 years ago