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New data from the Florida Legislature Office of Economic and Demographic Research shows that foreclosure remains an obstacle to economic growth in the state. According to their data for July, Florida had the highest foreclosure rate in the United States. The five American cities with the highest foreclosure rates, and nine of the top ten, were in Florida.

Overall, one in every 326 housing units in the state is in foreclosure, but the legislative office believes that the problem may be waning. The number of properties entering the process declined steadily throughout the year, and the number of properties worth less than their mortgage balance has gone down from 50 percent to 26 percent. However, the high number of distressed properties is still a concern. Real estate in Florida now falls into two distinct categories; viable properties attract traditional buyers while highly distressed properties are disposed of at reduced prices.

The foreclosure process is also taking much longer today than it did before the financial crisis impacted the state. An average foreclosure took less than six months to process in 2007, but that figure has since grown to about two and a half years, which is the third longest period in the nation. It will take at least two years for Florida to work through this glut of foreclosures, and the state’s diversity means that some areas will recover far more quickly than others.

The prospect of losing the family home causes a great deal of worry for most people, and options often seem few when households are struggling financially. However, there are options available. An attorney experienced in foreclosure defense may recommend filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or rolling mortgage payments into a Chapter 13 payment plan. They could also assist with a mortgage modification or a strategic mortgage default.

Source: Herald Tribune, “Florida leads nation in foreclosure rate”, Michael Braga, October 03, 2013