BLOG VIEW: Comparing The Data

Anyone who regularly visits mortgage news Web sites like this one or reads trade publications is likely very familiar with two of the industry's most prominent sources of foreclosure-related data: the HOPE NOW Alliance and RealtyTrac.

These groups' PR teams don't only churn out statements for trade media, of course. When it comes to producing foreclosure stats, few organizations garner the same name recognition among mainstream news outlets as these two.

Last week, HOPE NOW sent out a press release touting its success in preventing foreclosures. During the alliance's first year in existence, its servicers helped some 2 million homeowners avoid foreclosure, HOPE NOW reported.

The press release also stated that July set a record high for the number of foreclosures prevented: HOPE NOW servicing shops worked out more than 192,000 troubled loans – a 6% bump from the number of foreclosures prevented in June and a 54% increase when compared to July '07.

News like this, while still sometimes obscured in the general public's minds by talk of bailing out the GSEs and increasing incidences of mortgage fraud, is undeniably welcomed by the servicing community. After all, having a decently visible ally – nay, crusader! – reporting positive developments on the national scale is of great importance during this trying time.

It's no surprise that when Faith Schwartz, HOPE NOW's executive director, was introduced as a speaker at a panel session last February during the Mortgage Bankers Association's annual servicing show, she was greeted with an extended round of applause. Right now, there is no industry player that can match HOPE NOW's uplifting, high-profile image.

Compare those numbers with those released recently by RealtyTrac. According to the Irvine, Calif.-based group's database, there were 272,171 foreclosure filings in July, which represents an 8% jump from June's numbers and a 55% increase over July 2007's filings.

Granted, HOPE NOW and RealtyTrac do not collect data from identical silos. The HOPE NOW Alliance collects data from 23 companies comprising approximately 38 million loans. Conversely, RealtyTrac's database includes about 1.5 million properties. But if the two reports are to be taken at face value, it would be reasonable to say there were about 80,000 more foreclosures filed than avoided in July.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see how these organizations' monthly reports compare and, further, to see how they compare with the real-world sentiments of those in the industry.


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