Home foreclosures remain rare in Routt County

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Routt County Public Trustee Jeanne Whiddon confirmed this week that a pair of homes in Steamboat Springs - one on Red Hawk Court and another on Cornice Court - were foreclosed on this fall and returned to the holders of the mortgages, an outcome she seldom sees.

"It's been very rare," Whiddon said.

Just how rare was confirmed by third-quarter figures released this week by the Colorado Division of Housing.

Routt and Moffat counties rank among eight Colorado counties with the lowest rates statewide of completed foreclosures as a percentage of total housing units through September. The rate in Routt is .08 percent, and in Moffat, it is .02 percent - the lowest in Colorado. That compares to .34 percent in Summit County and 1.34 percent in Weld County.

Usually, a small percentage of the foreclosure notices filed actually go to completion in the form of a trustee's sale, because homeowners usually work with their lenders to resolve the delinquency before it goes that far.

Realtor Doug Labor, of Buyers Resource Real Estate, tracks real estate trends for the Steamboat Springs Multiple Listing Service. He said Steamboat's market is buffered against foreclosures by the relative prosperity of both its primary- and second-home buyers.

"Steamboat's generally healthy economy and the financial wherewithal of its real estate owners creates a different demographic than many primary markets," Labor said.

The two Steamboat homes were among four properties that recently were taken all the way to a completed foreclosure. The others include a home in Hayden and a parcel of agricultural land. Earlier in 2008, a single home on rural land was foreclosed on.

Although Whiddon was prepared to conduct a sale in all four recent cases, neither members of the public nor junior creditors appeared to acquire the properties. The result was that ownership reverted to the institutions holding the primary note recorded on the deed.

Routt County foreclosures filings have trended moderately upward this year from the past eight years, when the number of annual foreclosures tended to hover around 50. Foreclosure filings in 2008 currently stand at 50, compared to 47 in all of 2007.

Foreclosure ins and outs

The Department of Housing, in its report last week, explained the distinction between the number of foreclosure filings and the number of completed foreclosures.

The number of filings provides a view of how many borrowers have become seriously delinquent on their loans, the report says.

Foreclosure sale numbers, or the number of completed foreclosures, reflects how many households have lost all equity in a home as a result of the property being sold to another party - including the mortgage company - at auction.

Whiddon says that although she fields numerous calls from people interested in acquiring foreclosed properties, virtually no one shows up at one of the sales that always are scheduled at 10 a.m. sharp on Wednesday mornings.

Homeowners in foreclosure may lose their homes through a variety of processes; however, losing the home through a foreclosure sale is most damaging to the credit of the homeowners/borrower, according to the Department of Housing.

Labor said the gross number of foreclosure filings in Routt County is much less than in most American cities as a percentage of housing units. When compared to some other Colorado mountain towns, it's about middle of the pack.

The 47 foreclosure filings here in 2007, when expressed as a percentage of the 14,273 units, works out to 0.33 percent. The 2007 average in Colorado was 1.85 percent, Labor said. The foreclosure rate in Pitkin County, including Aspen, was 0.13 percent last year. It was about 0.5 percent in Eagle and Summit counties.

As of Nov. 1, Whiddon thought the number of foreclosure filings in 2008 was on its way to 60 by year's end. However, she since has revised that number downward, in part because banks have begun extending the time period they will work with creditors.

"Even with the slowdown, I think I'll probably have three or four more this year," Whiddon said. "I'm just guessing, but we might end up at 55."

Activity is looming

Whiddon said that out of 36 foreclosure notices on the books through the second quarter, 13 already had been withdrawn. And out of seven foreclosure sales her office had scheduled as pending in September and early October, another six had been taken off the calendar because the lender filed notice of its intent to cure the defaulted loans.

Colorado law gives owners of nonagricultural property between 110 and 125 days to cure their default after the public trustee has published notice of foreclosure proceedings. The cure period is longer for ag property - 215 to 230 days.

There already are signs of foreclosure activity that will unfold in Routt County early in 2009.

Whiddon said she has a list of 23 properties with pending sale dates, including some in January and February. There's still a chance those dates could be postponed as long as six months, she added.

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