Florida finished the first half of 2013 with the nation's highest foreclosure rate, but new cases are on the decline, according to a report released Thursday.
From January through June, one in 58 homes across the Sunshine State was facing foreclosure, figures from the RealtyTrac listing firm show.
Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties posted the highest foreclosure rate among metro areas. One in 43 homes in South Florida was in some stage of distress.
Meanwhile, Florida continues to have one of the nation's longest timelines for repossessing homes. It takes an average of 907 days to foreclose in Florida, RealtyTrac said. Only New York and New Jersey (1,033 days) had longer delays.
But while foreclosures remain elevated in Florida, new filings fell 23 percent in June from a year ago, RealtyTrac said. New cases in South Florida dropped 17 percent.
Daren Blomquist, a spokesman for RealtyTrac, said the bulk of the foreclosure activity in Florida is a result of older cases moving through the various stages of the court system.
"Those loans are from the housing bubble and not ones that originated in the last few years," he said.
Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac monitors public records for three types of foreclosure filings: new cases, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions.
In June, Florida had a 100 percent increase in the number of auctions, when a judge sets a date for a home to be repossessed. South Florida auctions more than tripled. An auction occurs after the case has been resolved through a trial or a summary judgment ruling.
Hoping to reduce the backlog of files, Palm Beach County Chief Judge Peter Blanc earlier this year ordered that older cases be set for trial. Judges in other counties also are trying to move cases along, lawyers say.
"Judges are routinely setting the cases for trial on their own, without the plaintiff asking them to do it. That's a huge difference," said Jerry Tepps, a foreclosure defense lawyer in Sunrise.
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