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Monday, December 12, 2011 - 12:40pm

Foreclosures On Pause

Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are suspending foreclosures and evictions for the holidays starting next week.

Several national banks are joining them in a two-week holiday reprieve, but real estate and housing experts said the break will not help most families save their foreclosed homes.

“That’s not enough time to get the kind of assistance you want,” said Dan Immergluck, a professor of housing and real estate in Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning. “And it’s not just about time, it’s about resources. There really aren’t sufficient legal resources out there to help homeowners, especially modest-income homeowners.”

Georgia saw foreclosure activity drop in the third quarter, but the state still had the third-highest foreclosure rate in the country, according to RealtyTrac, which estimated one of every 406 Georgia homes is in foreclosure.

Immergluck said the best measure of foreclosure, the number of people at least three months behind on their mortgage, is falling.

“Evenutally, some of that decline in serious delinquency will result in lower foreclosure rates, so I’m a little optimistic over the next year that things will get a little better, although they’ll still be bad for the whole year,” he said.

He said before the housing crisis, about 1 percent of homeowners were three or more months behind. The number climbed to roughly 6 percent.

“We’re not back down a little bit to about 4 percent, 4.5 percent, but we need to come way down to get back to what I would’ve thought was normal long-term,” Immergluck said. “I’m not sure we’re going to get there for a very long time. I think if we could even get down to 2 percent or 3 percent in the next year or two, that would be good news.”

The banks and mortgage giants have taken similar foreclosure breaks for the last few years around this time of year.

They will start back up again in January.