Westchester County property foreclosures in the year's first half declined from the same period a year ago and remained far below national levels, according to new data, but a real estate attorney said the picture is being masked by systemic delays in initiating the process.
Meanwhile, foreclosures declined sharply in Orange County, but climbed in Rockland, Ulster and Putnam counties and nearly tripled in Dutchess.
Only 757 Westchester County properties -- .20 percent of the county's 370,304 housing units -- were in foreclosure during the January-June period, according to RealtyTrac. That's a 14 percent decline from the 879 properties in foreclosure during the first half of 2011 and roughly a quarter of the foreclosure rate for the nation as a whole.
Margarita Rubin, an associate with the law firm Robert Aronov & Associates, P.C., said that the Westchester County real estate market still has not hit bottom and that a wave of foreclosures is hidden from view.
"I think what's happening is banks have slowed down and they're being forced by judges to work with the homeowner," she said. "That's just forestalling these foreclosures. When we get clients, we tell them they can live in the house a good 18 months before the banks do anything."
Rubin said affluent Westchester County homeowners are more likely to be able to afford a real estate attorney to provide advice and stave off foreclosure.
The data suggest that foreclosures are advancing faster in Rockland County and the lower Hudson Valley.
Most startling was Dutchess County, where areas like Poughkeepsie, Red Hook and Hopewell Junction pushed the number of properties in foreclosure to 219 in the first half of the year, up 288 percent from the 2011 period.
Rockland County's properties in foreclosure climbed 19 percent to 430, led by increases in Spring Valley, Stony Point and West Haverstraw.
Ulster County foreclosures jumped 40 percent to 77, propelled by new foreclosures in Saugerties and Highland.
In Putnam County, Mahopac accounted for most of a 15 percent increase versus the first half of 2011. Mahopac had 43 foreclosures in the January-June period, compared with 28 in the prior year's period.
By contrast, in the year's first half, Orange County witnessed a 61 percent decline in foreclosures versus the 2011 period. Leading the way out of foreclosure were properties in New Windsor, Newburgh and Monroe.
In Westchester County, Mount Vernon foreclosures fell to 93 from 113 in the prior year's period, and Port Chester plummeted 67 percent to 30 filings from 92 in 2011. Areas with increases included Elmsford, Chappaqua and Hartsdale.
Rubin said that investors' appetite for foreclosure properties has waned, meaning that properties in foreclosure tend to remain there.
"The mcmansions are sitting empty for a really long time," she said. "Nothing's moving. At first, people were grabbing them up when they hit the market. There aren't as many investors for these foreclosures."
In the first half, New York State's foreclosure filings fell to 14,794, down 538 compared with the 2011 period. Nationwide, 1.05 million properties, or .79 percent of housing units, were in foreclosure in the first half of 2012.