STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Many lenders put foreclosures on hold over the holidays, but their temporary freeze is now over. Thousands of foreclosed properties are expected to hit the market in the weeks and months ahead. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.
TAMARA KEITH: In the fall, many lenders put evictions on hold while they reviewed their foreclosure procedures. Rick Sharga, of the firm Realty Trac, says that's behind us now and the pace of foreclosures is about to pick up.
RICK SHARGA: I'd be really, really surprised if we didn't see a, probably record quarter in the first quarter of this year.
KEITH: Sharga expects banks will repossess close to 100,000 homes in January alone.
SHARGA: We always have a seasonal uptick in the first quarter and I think it will be accelerated because of delays that the servicers will be making up for in the first couple months.
KEITH: Realtors are bracing themselves for an increasing number of vacant homes waiting for buyers. But Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, says it doesn't come as a surprise.
LAWRENCE YUN: These properties will be coming onto the market, that is a given.
KEITH: He says there is a massive shadow inventory, homes not yet on the market where the owners are more than 90 days behind on their payments.
YUN: It's just inevitable that they will go into a foreclosure.
KEITH: Now, Yun says he doesn't expect all these properties to dump onto the market in a single month. It will be gradual. But the question is whether the already fragile housing market will be able to handle them.
YUN: Hopefully the improving economy, job creation, will provide the necessary housing demand to absorb the shadow inventory that will be reaching the market.
KEITH: Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.