The national research firm RealtyTrac reports that the Twin Cities had a big spike in foreclosures last year, but local housing experts say the number of metro area foreclosures is actually on the decline.
RealtyTrac's numbers indicate the Twin Cities had 29,000 foreclosures last year, up nearly 60 percent from the previous year. But data from Minneapolis-based HousingLink suggest there were half as many foreclosures in '09 as RealtyTrac shows -- roughly 14,000. That represents a drop from 2008. HousingLink surveys all 87 county sheriffs for foreclosure data.
Prentiss Cox, a foreclosure expert at the University of Minnesota, questions the RealtyTrac method of tracking a variety of foreclosure filings.
"I think the RealtyTrac numbers have been pretty unreliable for Minnesota over the last four or five years," Cox said.
Cox said said Hennepin County trends indicate foreclosures peaked in 2008 and are now declining. He questions RealtyTrac's methodology.
"Problem with the RealtyTrac numbers is they do extrapolation from proprietary data, so it's entirely unclear what they're looking at," he said. "I will say their numbers gyrate wildly, and they don't seem to have a good relationship to what's actually happening on the ground and the more careful counts that are down by HousingLink and other organizations."
RealtyTrac defends its approach, saying it's less accurate to focus on any one stage of the foreclosure process, such as sheriff's sales.