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Bank Delays May Push 1 Million U.S. Foreclosure Filings to 2012

Lender delays in processing home- loan defaults will push as many as 1 million U.S. foreclosure filings from this year to 2012 or beyond, casting an “ominous shadow” on the housing market, according to RealtyTrac Inc.

The number of properties receiving a notice of default, auction or repossession plunged 29 percent in the first half of 2011 from the same period last year, the Irvine, California- based data seller said today in a report. About 1.17 million homes got a filing, or one out of every 111 households.

Procedural delays caused by a probe into bank documentation errors, combined with weak consumer sentiment and a jobless rate above 9 percent, are weighing on a property recovery by adding to a backlog of distressed homes, RealtyTrac said. A clogged foreclosure pipeline may prevent real estate prices from finding a bottom as the housing slump enters its sixth year.

“If you accept the premise that foreclosures are the black cloud hanging over the market, we’re not going to get price stability and people won’t leave the sidelines until that cloud is cleared away,” Nicolas Retsinas, professor of real estate at Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a telephone interview.

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