The number of Long Island homes foreclosed last month jumped 437 percent over a year ago and doubled compared to September, a sign that lenders may be moving more aggressively to settle many older foreclosure cases, RealtyTrac said.
Nationwide in October, lenders took 21 percent more homes than a year ago but 9 percent fewer than in September, the report said.
RealtyTrac spokesman Daren Blomquist warned against taking the local monthly number too seriously, pointing out that such data often contain cases from past months due to lags in local recording of repossessions. "When you go to the local levels, you do see a lot of volatility in those numbers," he noted.
There were 145 homes auctioned and taken by lenders last month, compared to 27 a year ago and 72 in September, said the California-based real estate data provider. Suffolk, where lower prices and more options drew many buyers during the boom, accounted for 140 of the lender repossessions.
Beyond the possibility of lagging bookkeeping, there were other factors at play last month that contributed to the spike, experts said.
Lenders have been on "overdrive" this year in tackling backlogs, building momentum that helped lead to a pileup of auctions in October, said Barry Lites, a Hauppauge attorney for borrowers in foreclosure: "The banks are pulling the trigger."
Also, as the year ends, lenders are trying to improve their books, said Tom McGiveron, who gets lenders' foreclosure listings as an agent at Coldwell Banker Matherson in West Islip. "They were slow to foreclose, and now they have to get things off their books," he said.
RealtyTrac officials said figures would have been higher if not for the "robo-signing" controversy, in which workers at Ally Bank, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase said they signed thousands of foreclosure documents monthly without confirming details. The three froze auctions for a few weeks but resumed work on them by Oct. 20.
But that freeze and a new judicial order late last month helped lower repossessions. In Nassau, for example, 74 auctions were postponed the week after the state's top judge ordered lenders' attorneys to file sworn statements saying they've taken "reasonable steps" to verify details in foreclosure cases.