Routt County foreclosure filings match 2010 numbers

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— The number of foreclosure filings in Routt County in 2011 suggests the real estate market will be feeling the impacts of distressed properties on pricing for some time to come.

With the holiday slowdown in foreclosure filings nearing, Public Trustee Jeanne Whiddon confirmed she expects the number of notices of election and demand in 2011 to eclipse last year, but not by much.

“We finished with 303 (notices) in 2010, and we stand at 302 right now,” Whiddon said Wednesday. I’ve got two more on my desk, but thank goodness the banks tend not to (initiate) more of them in the last two weeks of the year.”

New foreclosure filings in the form of notices of election and demand are not the same thing as people losing property through the foreclosure process. Whiddon said a significant number of foreclosures are withdrawn, cured by lenders or the two parties come to mutually agreeable terms for restructuring the debt without going to a bank sale.

With more than 600 properties coming under the threat of foreclosure within the past two years, one might conclude that the local market is flooded with distressed properties. But that’s not the case, at least among properties listed through the Steamboat Springs Multiple Listing Service.

Realtor Doug Labor, who compiles statistical data for the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, said Thursday that there are 85 bank-owned properties among the 1,885 listings on the Multiple Listing Service, or 4.5 percent of the total.

Labor is the owner of Buyer’s Resource Real Estate. Although the number of property owners struggling to make mortgage payments or growing disaffected with an upside-down position on investments is substantial, Labor said he took some encouragement from the fact that the number of new foreclosure filings has remained at last year’s level.

Although current bank-owned listings are a small fraction of the total, they have commanded a disproportionate share of sales. Of 663 transactions recorded through the Multiple Listing Service as of Thursday, 152, or 23 percent, were bank-owned, Labor said. The total sales included four commercial properties, six pieces of land and 142 residential properties.

Stan Urban, of Land Title Guarantee Co., reported in November that bank sales in Routt County dropped to six in October, compared with 18 in September.

The six bank sales in October included three small condominiums near the ski area, a single-family home on Pine Street in Old Town Steamboat, a newer home in Hayden and a townhome in Hayden.

Labor confirmed an anecdotal impression that increasing numbers of short sales are forestalling some foreclosures. Short sales are an arrangement between a homeowner and the bank holding the note on the property that allows the property to be sold for less than the outstanding debt. It saves banks money by avoiding the legal work entailed in a foreclosure and makes a smaller dent in the credit rating of the property owners.

Labor had a client involved in deal for a million-dollar-plus short sale of a home near the base of the ski area in November. In another case, he had a client who submitted a bid for a home in short sale who waited six months to find out the offer was not accepted.

Foreclosure sales can be just as bewildering, he said. He had a client who successfully bid $80,000 on a Hayden home owned by the Federal National Mortgage Association only to find that the contract specified that the transaction must be in cash. Because the client needed a loan to buy the foreclosed property, the client lost out.

In recent history, Routt County has seen far fewer notices of election and demand filed annually. There were 44 filed in 2006. In 2007, the number grew slightly to 47, with 10 sales of bank-owned properties. Foreclosures still weren’t alarming in 2008, when 55 notices of election and demand were filed, and there were 10 more bank-owned sales in the market. However, by mid-November, things clearly were changing as Whiddon reported 170 notices of election and demand already had been filed that year.

Early in 2011, the public trustee was concerned that notices would go to new heights this year. Her office already had filed 104 by the end of the first quarter, compared with 69 by the end of March 2010. However, the pace calmed down in the second quarter when the number of new foreclosure filings was 62, compared with 75 in the second quarter of 2010. The pace of filings moderated again during the last three months of the year with 50 on the books as of Wednesday.

Whiddon said she is detecting more anxiety connected with foreclosed property owners this year than in the past.

“We’re seeing property owners working on short sales right up until the final minute,” she said.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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