The front door of a condemned Cedar Street property in Belfast, which has been vacant for years and was in pre foreclosure in this January 2022 file photo. Credit: Abigail Curtis / BDN

Maine is bucking the national trend of rising residential foreclosure filings, ranking in the bottom fifth among other U.S. states and showing a sharp decline in the first quarter of this year.

Nationally, one in every 1,459 homes had foreclosure filings in the first three months of 2023 compared with only one in every 3,250 in Maine. Illinois had the highest number, with one in every 762 homes in foreclosure, according to a study released Wednesday by ATTOM, a property data provider.

Maine ranked 41st among states in foreclosure filings. Maine residences saw a 39 percent drop in foreclosure filings in the first quarter of 2023 compared with the same time last year. The first quarter filings were down 37 percent compared with the last three months of 2022. The first quarter percentage drop was larger than all other states except North Dakota, which was down almost 43 percent.

The District of Columbia, Alaska, West Virginia and Oregon had the highest increases, all well over 100 percent.

ATTOM attributed the national uptrend to rising unemployment rates, foreclosure filings making their way through to the courts after two years of government intervention and ongoing economic challenges.

Foreclosures have been rising ever since the middle of 2021, when the federal government lifted a moratorium on banks taking back properties from delinquent homeowners with federally insured mortgages, ATTOM CEO Rob Barber said. Even Maine saw a spike in the first quarter of last year to rank in the top third of foreclosure filings.

The moratorium, which affected around three-quarters of all home loans around the U.S., was imposed at the end of 2020 to protect homeowners who lost jobs or suffered other financial setbacks during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barber linked the disparity in foreclosure rates around the country to some areas recovering more quickly and to backlogs of caseloads in the courts.

That could be why Maine has fared comparatively well, Maine Bankers Association President Jim Roche said. The state has one of the longest foreclosure processes in the country, averaging a total of two years although three to four years is not uncommon. Also, Maine banks are more willing to work with customers to see them through financial humps, he said.

“Maine is known for relationship banking, and when your customers are your neighbors you go out of your way to do what you can to help them out in tough situations,” he said.

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Lori Valigra

Lori Valigra, senior reporter for economy and business, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...