How to win a bidding war on your dream home

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In housing markets teeming with buyer demand, it’s not uncommon to put an offer on a home, only to be outdone by a competing offer. If two or more potential buyers want a property badly enough, they may find themselves locked in a bidding war.

 

Here’s what you need to build your toolkit to increase your chances of winning the war.

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Related: Pros & cons of buying a starter home

1. Know How It Works

Bidding wars usually take place in seller’s markets, when demand outpaces supply. They also typically occur when there are multiple interested parties and when there is some other sort of constraint, such as timing.

 

When a real estate agent receives an offer for a property that has attracted a lot of interest, the agent will usually contact other interested parties to let them know. The agent may then set a date by which would-be buyers should make their highest and best offer.

 

Often, the highest offer is the winner, but there are other factors a seller may take into account.

2. Line Up Your Financing

One of the best things you can do to be prepared for a potential bidding war is to line up your finances ahead of time. Be sure to know how much mortgage you can afford, including a down payment and monthly payments. Talk with lenders to see if you qualify for a mortgage and to familiarize yourself with what types of loans are available to you.

 

Look into the things you can do ahead of time to help you qualify for a home loan, such as improving your credit score and maintaining a good debt-to-income ratio.

3. Show Your Preapproval Letter

Getting preapproved for a mortgage shows that you are a serious candidate to buy a home and signals that you’re willing to see the process through to the end.

 

The preapproval process is more rigorous than prequalifying for a mortgage. Lenders will take an in-depth look at your income, employment history, assets and debts. They will also make a hard inquiry into your credit history to determine whether they are willing to give you a loan. Preapproval shows that you will be able to borrow enough money to cover the cost of the home. Just be sure that the preapproval documents are for the home you want to buy specifically. Your chosen lender can customize a preapproval letter for you.

4. Drop Contingencies

Contingencies are certain conditions that must be met before a real estate deal becomes binding. Potential buyers can back out of a deal without penalty if these contingencies aren’t met.

 

A clean offer, one with as few contingencies as possible, could be quite attractive to sellers in a competitive market. A common contingency is the inspection clause, which allows a buyer to have a home professionally inspected to determine whether any repairs need to be made. That contingency gives the buyer a chance to renegotiate the sale price. For example, if an inspection uncovers cracks in the home’s foundation, a buyer might request a reduced price to cover the cost of repair.

 

Waiving the contingency shows your willingness to move forward with the deal, but it also comes with risk. If you do discover that the home needs repairs, you may be on the hook to cover the costs yourself.

5. Be Quick About Your Appraisal and Inspection

Sellers want to avoid spending too much time with a potential buyer, only to have the deal fall through. Do what you can to have your appraisal and inspection done right away. Being prompt gives sellers less cause to worry that they’re taking the home off the market and potentially missing out on better offers.

6. Use an Escalation Clause

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the best ways to win a bidding war is by offering more money. Before you up your offer, be sure that your lender is OK with the plan.

 

You may want to include an escalation clause in your real estate contract. The clause asserts that if another buyer makes a competing offer, your bid will automatically increase by a certain amount, up to a predetermined limit, to exceed the new offer.

 

Say you put a $300,000 offer on a home, with an escalation amount of $5,000 and a ceiling of $330,000. If someone else then bids $310,000, you will automatically bid $315,000, up to your ceiling. Escalation clauses are usually added when buyers assume there will be multiple offers on a property.

7. Stay Flexible

A willingness to be flexible can give you a leg up in the eyes of a seller. For example, a seller might be moving across the country for work and need to close by a specific date. So if you can get the appraisal and inspection done swiftly, that could be a huge plus.

 

Alternatively, sellers may need to stay in the house for a little bit of extra time. Working with them on their specific needs could give you an edge.

8. Pay With Cash

If you are able to do it, paying with cash can be very attractive to sellers. The cash-buying process is typically much faster than going through a lender, and sellers don’t need to worry about financing issues that might hold up the deal or cause it to fall through. It’s even possible that a seller would choose a cash offer over a slightly higher offer backed by a mortgage.

10. Increase the Size of Your Deposit

A buyer puts an earnest money deposit down to secure the real estate contract. It tells the seller that you are serious about buying the house, so much so that you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is. Increasing the size of the deposit can emphasize this point. Be sure that you meet all your deadlines and contingencies so you have a better chance of retrieving your deposit if the contract were to fall through.

11. Write a Personal Letter

When sellers are choosing a buyer during a bidding war, they’re often just looking at numbers on a page. Consider writing an offer letter to humanize the transaction. As you write your letter, share personal details about what makes you the ideal candidate to buy the home. For example, perhaps you believe it would be the perfect place to raise a family.

 

You may want to note things you have in common with the sellers. You’re a ceramicist and noticed an artist’s studio in the backyard. You have dogs; they have a dog door. That big elm reminds you of one you had at your childhood home. Be complimentary about the things you like about the house and how it has been maintained. And be sure to keep the letter concise.

The Takeaway

What should you know when buying a house? For one, know how to anticipate and win a bidding war. With a few simple tactics, you can tip the odds in your favor. As noted, getting prequalified and preapproved for a mortgage are essential prep in a hot market when homes often have many suitors.

 

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Foreclosure rates in every state

 

The number of U.S. properties with foreclosure filings in September was 19,609, according to ATTOM Data Solutions. This is up roughly 102% from September last year when foreclosure activity remained low due to the pandemic-related moratorium on foreclosures. The Biden administration’s final extension of the moratorium on foreclosures ended July 31. The extension of the evictions moratorium for foreclosed borrowers ended Sept. 30.

 

It is also worth noting that foreclosure filings increased approximately 24% from August to September. This is on the heels of the roughly 27% increase in foreclosure filings that occurred between July and August.

Despite these notable monthly increases, along with the substantial uptick compared to a year ago, foreclosure filings remain well below pre-pandemic levels. Foreclosure activity is expected to continue increasing over the next few months; however, ATTOM still predicts lower than normal foreclosure levels through the remainder of the year. Read on for the foreclosure rates in September 2021 – plus the five counties with the highest rates within those states.

 

Related: Can you put an offer on a house that is contingent?

 

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As noted, foreclosures are up from last month, as well as compared to last year. Read on for September foreclosure rates for all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, beginning with the state that had the lowest rate of foreclosure filings per housing unit.

 

 

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Ranking in population above the country’s two least populated states – Wyoming and Vermont – Washington, D.C. had nine foreclosures in September. With a total of 315,176 housing units, the District’s foreclosure rate was one in every 35,020 households, putting it in between the states of Oregon (No. 47) and North Dakota (No. 46).

 

 

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North Dakota’s foreclosure rate was one in every 74,613 homes in August. That puts the fourth least populated state – with a total of 373,063 housing units and five homes in foreclosure – in 50th place. Only four counties in the state had foreclosures. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Mchenry, Ward, Williams and Cass.

 

Rex_Wholster

 

The 38th most populated state, West Virginia stayed put in 49th place. It has 892,182 homes, of which 13 went into foreclosure in September. That means the foreclosure rate was one in every 68,629 homes. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Wirt, Hancock, Barbour, Hardy and Brooke.

 

 

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With 12 foreclosures out of 510,180 housing units, Montana ranked 48th for September, making the 46th most populated state’s foreclosure rate one in every 42,515 homes. This matches the data from August. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Lincoln, Silver Bow, Yellowstone, Cascade and Ravalli.

 

 

YinYang

 

The 27th most populated state ranked 47th for foreclosures. This is the same ranking that the Beaver State held in August. Of its 1,768,901 homes, 42 went into foreclosure, making for a foreclosure rate of one in every 42,117 homes. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Crook, Jefferson, Umatilla, Linn and Curry.

 

 

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North Dakota’s foreclosure rate was one in every 33,915 homes in September. That puts the fourth least populated state – with a total of 373,063 housing units and 11 homes in foreclosure – in 46th place. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Mclean, Ward, Stark, Morton and Williams.

 

 

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Alaska saw 10 foreclosures in September, making the foreclosure rate one in every 31,467 homes. That caused the third least populated state, with a total of 314,670 housing units, to vastly improve its ranking from the 12th spot in August to the 45th spot. Only two counties saw foreclosures in September. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Anchorage, followed by Fairbanks North Star.

 

 

Chilkoot

 

In 49th place for population, Vermont ranked 44th for foreclosure rates in September. Of Vermont’s 334,999 housing units, 11 homes went into foreclosure for a rate of one in every 30,454 households. Only four counties in the state had foreclosures. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Rutland, Washington, Bennington and Chittenden.

 

 

DenisTangneyJr

 

Kansas took the 43rd spot in September. With 1,273,297 homes and a total of 61 housing units going into foreclosure, the 35th most-populated state’s foreclosure rate was one in every 20,874 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Geary, Wyandotte, Harvey, Labette and Reno.

 

 

Michael Pham

 

Ranking 37th for population, Nebraska claimed the 44th spot in September with a foreclosure rate of one in every 19,940 homes. With a total 837,476 housing units, the state had 42 foreclosure filings. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Dundy, Webster, Kimball, Red Willow and Thayer.

 

 

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Ranked 32nd for most populated state, Arkansas took the 41st spot in September for foreclosures. It has 1,370,281 housing units, of which 74 went into foreclosure, making the Natural State’s August foreclosure rate one in every 18,517 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Arkansas, Cleveland, Dallas, Lincoln and Ashley.

 

 

Rdlamkin

 

With a total 1,983,949 housing units, Kentucky saw 117 homes go into foreclosure in September. That put the foreclosure rate for the 26th most populated state at one in every 16,957 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Boyd, Hardin, Trimble, Campbell and Martin.

 

 

Thomas Kelley

 

The 21st most populated state ranked 39th for foreclosures in September. Of its 2,386,475 housing units, 147 went into foreclosure, making for a foreclosure rate of one in every 16,235 homes. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Alamosa, Fremont, Custer, Teller and Archuleta.

 

 

Jacob Boomsma / istockphoto

 

In Arizona, the 14th most populated state, there were 199 foreclosures out of 3,003,286 housing units. That put the September foreclosure rate at one in every 15,092 homes. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Graham, Mohave, Yavapai, Cochise and Yuma.

 

 

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Ranked 13th for most populated state, Washington came in at 37th place for foreclosures. It has 3,106,528 housing units, of which 208 went into foreclosure, making the state’s foreclosure rate one in every 14,935 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Columbia, Pend Oreille, Ferry, Cowlitz and Kitsap.

 

 

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The 39th most populated state, Idaho had 49 homes go into foreclosure in September. With 723,594 total housing units, the state’s foreclosure rate was one in every 14,767 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Power, Shoshone, Bear Lake, Washington and Payette.

 

 

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The 12th most populated state ranked 35th with 258 homes going into foreclosure in September. With 3,514,032 total housing units, the state’s foreclosure rate was one in every 13,620 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Covington City, Fairfax City, Franklin City, Bland and Charles City.

 

 

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Pennsylvania, the fifth most populated state, had a total of 422 housing units out of 5,693,314 homes go into foreclosure in September, making the state’s foreclosure rate one in every 13,491 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Snyder, Armstrong, Bucks, Lehigh and Lawrence.

 

 

AppalachianViews

 

Ranked 25th for population, Louisiana had 167 homes out of a total 2,059,918 go into foreclosure. That means one in every 12,335 households went into foreclosure in September. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): De Soto, Caddo, Acadia, Saint Martin and East Baton Rouge.

 

 

DenisTangneyJr

 

Ranked 22nd for most populated state, Minnesota held on to its 32nd spot from August. It has 2,438,203 housing units, of which 199 went into foreclosure, making the state’s foreclosure rate one in every 12,252 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Le Sueur, Koochiching, Anoka, Jackson and Carlton.

 

 

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In Mississippi, the 33rd most populated state, there were 115 foreclosures out of 1,322,808 housing units. That put the September foreclosure rate at one in every 11,503 homes. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Marshall, Humphreys, Adams, Yazoo and Itawamba.

 

 

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The 15th most populated state ranked 30th for foreclosures in September. Of its 2,897,259 housing units, 257 went into foreclosure, making for a foreclosure rate of one in every 11,273 homes. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Hampden, Berkshire, Dukes, Nantucket and Bristol.

 

 

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The 41st most populated state, New Hampshire ranked 29th for highest foreclosure rate in September. Of 634,726 homes, 57 went into foreclosure, making for a foreclosure rate of one in every 11,136 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Cheshire, Grafton, Rockingham, Carroll and Strafford.

 

 

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Ranked the least populated, Wyoming claimed the 28th spot in September. With 276,846 housing units and 25 homes in foreclosure, the state’s foreclosure rate was one in every 11,074 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Carbon, Weston, Sublette, Goshen and Natrona.

 

 

AnujSahaiPhotography

 

With 752 out of a total 8,322,722 housing units going into foreclosure in September, the fourth most populated state took the 27th spot with a foreclosure rate of one in every 11,067 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Montgomery, Suffolk, Otsego, Sullivan and Orleans.

 

 

Eloi_Omella

 

The eighth least populated state took the 26th spot in September. A total of 44 homes went into foreclosure out of 468,335 total housing units, making the foreclosure rate for the Ocean State one in every 10,644 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Newport, Kent, Providence, Washington and Bristol.

 

 

danlogan

 

Oklahoma claimed the 25th spot in September. With housing units totaling 1,731,632, the 28th most populated state saw 165 homes go into foreclosure at a rate of one in every 10,495 homes. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Greer, Craig, Pawnee, Canadian, and Woodward.

 

 

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Ranking 10th for population, Michigan took the 24th spot in September with a foreclosure rate of one in every 10,214 homes. With a total of 4,596,198 housing units, the state had 450 foreclosure filings. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Wayne, Saint Joseph, Macomb, Genesee and Otsego.

 

 

haveseen

 

The 18th most populated state, Missouri came in 23rd for highest rate of foreclosures in September. Of its 2,790,397 homes, 292 went into foreclosure, making for a foreclosure rate of one in every 9,556 homes. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Mississippi, Mcdonald, Livingston, Audrain and Dade.

 

 

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The Lone Star State saw 1,179 foreclosures in September. With a foreclosure rate of one in every 9,277 households, this put the second most populous state with 10,937,026 housing units into the 22nd spot. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Wilbarger, Liberty, Carson, Brown and Scurry.

 

 

DenisTangneyJr

 

Ranked as the ninth least populated state, Maine placed 21st for foreclosures in September. With a total of 742,788 housing units, the Pine Tree State saw 84 foreclosures for a foreclosure rate of one in every 8,843 homes. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Aroostook, Knox, Oxford, Somerset and Penobscot.

 

 

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The 40th most populated state, Hawaii came in 20th for foreclosures in September. Of 542,674 homes, 63 went into foreclosure, making for a foreclosure rate of one in every 8,614 households. Only four counties in the state had foreclosures. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Honolulu, Hawaii, Maui and Kauai.

 

 

Art Wager

 

The 36th most populated state took the 19th spot in September. Of its 937,920 homes, 109 went into foreclosure, making for a foreclosure rate of one in every 8,605 homes. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Hidalgo, Colfax, Valencia, San Miguel and Eddy.

 

 

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Utah placed 18th in September. Of the Beehive State’s 1,087,112 housing units, 136 homes went into foreclosure, making the 31st most populated state’s foreclosure rate one in every 7,993 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Carbon, Kane, Juab, Salt Lake and Tooele.

 

 

” 4kodiak”

 

With 375 of its 2,963,486 homes going into foreclosure in September, Tennessee took the 17th spot with its foreclosure rate coming in at one in every 7,903 households. In the 16th most populated state, the counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Lake, Lewis, Unicoi, Humphreys and Claiborne.

 

 

Swarmcatcher

 

The ninth most populated state took 16th place for most foreclosures in September. Out of 4,627,089 homes, 603 went into foreclosure. That made its foreclosure rate one in every 7,673 homes. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Jones, Scotland, Chowan, Tyrrell and Clay.

 

 

” Darwin Brandis”

 

The eighth most populated state, Georgia ranked 15th in September for most foreclosures. Of its 4,283,477 homes, 574 were foreclosed on. That put the state’s foreclosure rate at one in every 7,463 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Quitman, Baker, Bibb, Hancock and Warren.

 

 

SeanPavonePhoto

 

With 204 of its 1,516,629 homes going into foreclosure, Connecticut’s foreclosure rate was one in every 7,434 households in September. In the 29th most populated state, the counties that had the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Windham, Tolland, Litchfield, Middlesex and New Haven.

 

 

traveler1116

 

Ranked 24th for most populated, Alabama remained in 13th place for foreclosure rates in September. Of its 2,255,026 homes, 329 went into foreclosure, making for a foreclosure rate of one in every 6,854 homes. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Mobile, Russell, Elmore, Coffee and Hale.

 

 

Sean Pavone

 

Ranked 19th for most populated state, Maryland took 12th place for highest foreclosure rate in September. With a total of 2,448,422 housing units and 430 housing units going into foreclosure, the state’s August foreclosure rate was one in every 5,694 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Somerset, Charles, Baltimore City, Prince George’s County and Baltimore.

 

 

James_Lane

 

With 498 foreclosures out of 2,694,527 total housing units, Wisconsin, the 20th most populated state, had a September foreclosure rate of one in every 5,411 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Ashland, Marquette, Dodge, Menominee and Florence.

 

 

FierceAbin

 

With 265 housing units out of 1,397,087 homes going into foreclosure, the 30th most populated state’s foreclosure rate was one in every 5,272 homes in September. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Wapello, Harrison, Hancock, Greene and Emmet.

 

 

JoeChristensen

 

The most populated state ranked ninth in September for most foreclosures. Of its 14,175,976 housing units, 2,763 went into foreclosure, making California’s foreclosure rate one in every 5,131 households. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Merced, San Bernardino, Kern, San Joaquin and El Dorado.

 

 

mlauffen

 

With one in every 5,048 homes going into foreclosure, South Carolina held on to the eighth spot from August to September. Ranked 23rd for population, South Carolina has 2,286,826 housing units and saw 453 foreclosure filings. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Fairfield, Chesterfield, Dillon, Sumter and Chester.

 

 

SeanPavonePhoto

 

Ohio claimed the seventh spot with a foreclosure rate of one in every 4,885 homes. With a total of 5,202,304 housing units, the seventh most populated state had a total of 1,065 filings. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Cuyahoga, Summit, Lake, Clinton and Auglaize.

 

 

dypics

 

The 17th largest state by population, Indiana took the sixth spot with a foreclosure rate of one in every 4,633 homes. Of its 2,886,548 homes, 623 homes were foreclosed in September. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Noble, Spencer, Fayette, Porter and Vermillion.

 

 

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With a foreclosure rate of one in every 4,487 homes, New Jersey moved out of the top three to the fifth spot. The 11th most populated state has 3,616,614 housing units, 806 of which went into foreclosure in September. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem, Atlantic and Essex.

 

 

aimintang

 

Ranking 34th in population, Nevada also moved out of the top three and claimed the fourth spot in September. With one in every 4,009 homes going into foreclosure and a total of 1,250,893 housing units, the state had 312 foreclosure filings. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Clark, Nye, Churchill, Washoe and Lyon.

 

 

AlizadaStudios

 

The sixth least populated state in the country, Delaware took the third spot for the highest foreclosure rate in September. With one in every 3,834 homes going into foreclosure and a total 433,195 housing units, Delaware saw a total of 113 foreclosure filings. With only three counties in the state, the counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Kent, New Castle and Sussex.

 

 

mdgmorris

 

Illinois managed to slide out of the top spot for highest foreclosure rate, taking the number two spot in September. Of its 5,360,315 homes, 1,528 went into foreclosure, making the sixth most populated state’s foreclosure rate one in every 3,508. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Peoria, Will, Clay, Clark and Madison.

 

 

ibsky

 

Florida nabbed the number one spot for highest foreclosure rate in September with one in every 3,276 homes going into foreclosure. The third most populated state in the country has a total of 9,448,159 housing units of which 2,884 went into foreclosure. The counties with the most foreclosures per housing unit were (from highest to lowest): Bradford, Broward, Pasco, Miami-Dade and Union.

 

 

Elisa.rolle

 

Of all 50 states, Florida had the most foreclosure filings (2,884); South Dakota had the least (5). As for the states with the highest foreclosure rates, Florida, Illinois and Delaware took the top three spots, respectively.

 

The Midwest had the largest presence among the 10 states that ranked the highest for foreclosure rates. These states were (from highest to lowest): Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Iowa. The Midwest also had the largest presence among the 10 states that ranked the lowest for foreclosure rates. These states were (from highest to lowest): Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota and South Dakota.

 

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