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Data show foreclosure filings lower than December 2009

Hundreds of additional Long Islanders faced losing their homes in January, but the number of initial foreclosure filings was lower than the previous month's, according to new economic data.

In January, 1,556 notices of a pending suit, were filed, according to the Long Island Real Estate Report, which reports on real estate transactions. Although it's an increase over the 717 in January 2009, the year-ago figures were so low because filings plummeted in September 2008 due to a new state law. Notices filed in December 2009 were 1,712.

The legislative change, requiring lenders and loan servicers to give subprime borrowers 90-day notices, helped drive down filings in the fall of 2008. The total then rose to a recent peak of 2,021 in August 2009.

"It took a few months before they [filings] could get back on track," said Pat Ammirati, president of the Long Real Estate Report in West Islip.

Susan Vincennie, a general manager for Long Island Profiles in Brightwaters, which also tracks real estate data and gathers it for clients, said her firm's data also showed a steady increase after a low figure in January 2009. "You still have the same number of people in default, it's just a matter of them slowing up the filings," she said.

Besides subprime borrowers defaulting, jobless homeowners and those who saw their incomes drop have missed mortgage payments, a combination that drove last year's growth in foreclosure cases, according to local experts.

Things are looking up, however, for home sales. Lately, more homes have been selling compared with a year ago, due partly to low interest rates and the home buyers' tax credit.

"We sense that there's more optimism," said Anthony Chiaravalotti, broker owner of Coldwell Banker Beach West Realty in Long Beach. "We may be seeing some kind of stabilization here and possibly a recovery, but it's hard to tell at this point."

Among other monthly economic indicators, job losses slowed to 9,700 in January from nearly 33,000 a year ago - the narrowest drop since October 2008. Bankruptcy filings totaled 645 in January, slightly higher than a year ago but the lowest since January 2008.

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