Local Realtors and county officials report the number of home foreclosures is rising in the area, but a new program to educate homebuyers to avoid losing their homes may soon be available.
Patrick Spettel, a broker and associate at Remax Realty, said 17 of the 42 homes he's sold so far this year have been foreclosures. Last year he had only 13 foreclosures for the entire year, he added.
"That's very high," he said. "I've never seen the market this way. I think we're coming out of it now."
Spettel said people with variable rate loans are seeing house payments go up. "I would certainly advise anyone going into the market now to get a fixed rate mortgage," he said.
"I think we're through the worst part of it," Spettel said. "We're seeing signs that our local market is coming around. There are more opportunities for buyers now and prices are stabilizing."
He said the first half of the year in Norwalk prices were down as much as $10,000 per home. "Buyers are more cautious when they make offers."
Both Kathleen Schaffer, Huron County treasurer, and Susan Hazel, clerk of courts, said they have seen a steady rise in foreclosures. "Huron County was in the top 10 in the state for foreclosures," Schaffer said. When a homeowner gets behind on taxes, she explained, her office will try to contact people and set up a payment plan.
Both the treasurer and the clerk of courts are interested in a new program put together by the state treasurer's office to educate people about avoiding foreclosure. Schaffer currently is working with the state treasurer to bring seminars called Rebuilding Your Credit and Save Our Homes to Huron County.
Hazel said about half of the cases filed in her office each year are civil cases and foreclosures make up half of those. "Each year the numbers just go up," she said.
Right now 207 cases are in the process of orders for sale, Hazel said, one from as long ago as 1999. "It can be a very long drawn-out process," she said. In just the first seven months of 2007, she added, 244 foreclosures have been filed.
"We'd like to get something in place to help people, but the clerk's office isn't allowed to provide legal advice," she said, adding Web siteswww.ohiolegalservices.org, www.ohiobar.org andwww.ohnb.uscourts.gov all provide information on foreclosures.
The Huron County Sheriff's office holds five foreclosure sales a week each Monday. Secretary Carol Smith said sales are already scheduled through Sept. 10. The sheriff's department had 220 sales in 2006 and had 148 so far this year.
Realtor Mike Meyers agreed that his office has handled more foreclosures this year, but he agreed with Spettle that he thinks the situation in getting a little better. "I think we're almost there," Meyers said. "It's a sad situation for the homeowner when you lose your home.
"The problem is just that people are getting overextended. They're borrowing too much and then when a situation happens they can't make the payments anymore."
Jim Miller, CEO of Citizens Bank, said the bank has seen a rise in foreclosures, but he sees more of a problem with huge mortgage companies that don't have a local presence in the community. "Fortunately, we've not had the level of foreclosures that seems to be what we see in the newspaper," he said. "I've found it's mostly the Chases, Countrywide or the big mortgage companies that are filing."
He said two practices can get homeowners into trouble nominal or non-existing down payments and variable rates. The large lending companies use statistical analysis to determine deals and don't know the local communities. "They are maybe a bit more liberal in their lending practices," Miller said, while people who live in the local communities are more conservative.