Tuesday, October 07, 2008

RealtyTrac foreclosure lists miss much rural data

Rural areas are being excluded from a widely used source of statistics on the mortgage crisis. "A company called RealtyTrac provides some of the most widely followed statistics on home foreclosures, but it fails to report on more than 900 rural counties," Scott Finn of West Virginia Public Radio reports for National Public Radio.

The data gathered by RealtyTrac is used by government officials and journalists to report on the number of foreclosures created by the mortgage crisis. But there are considerable flaws in the data being gathered. Adds Finn, "In West Virginia last year, it counted fewer than 500 foreclosure notices. New federal statistics counted 12,000 notices in the state, since the start of 2007."

Eight of the most rural areas in the country are in the top 10 of a RealtyTrac list of low-foreclosure areas. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has begun measuring foreclosures in each state after the passing of the Foreclosure Prevention Act in July. The HUD data show that rural foreclosure rates are higher than those in urban areas, confirming problems with the RealtyTrac data. For example, while RealtyTrac had Mississippi near the bottom of its list of most foreclosures, HUD has the state in the top 10. (Read more) The map below shows in gray the counties that RealtyTrac does not cover. High-foreclosure counties are shown in red, low-foreclosure counties in blue. (Click on map for larger version)

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