Janesville78.2°

Foreclosure filings fall

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JAMES P. LEUTE
March 3, 2009
— The good news is that foreclosure filings in Rock County fell in February, but the bad news is that the number of local filings continues to be higher than those filed in early 2008.

That's a trend that could continue through the end of the year, a Janesville credit union official said.


According to ForeclosureAlarm, a Madison firm that tracks foreclosure data, 78 foreclosures were filed in Rock County in February, down from the 113 filed a month before.


But February's filings also were 20 percent more than those filed in February 2008.


For the first nine months of 2008, foreclosures filings in Rock County were fairly level. The number of monthly filings in that timeframe ranged from 47 to 67 and averaged about 59 each month.


But the housing hardship—at least in terms of foreclosure filings—hit home in Rock County in October. That month, foreclosure filings climbed to 107, a number eclipsed by January's 133 filings.


From October 2008 through February, monthly filings ranged from last month's 78 to January's 113. The monthly average for the last five months was about 94.


In 2008, the county had 808 foreclosure filings, up 34 percent from the 605 filed in 2007.


A foreclosure filing does not mean that a home was foreclosed upon. In some cases, the homeowners and creditors can work out agreements to avoid the ultimate foreclosure sale conducted each week by the Rock County Sheriff's Office.


For example, the number of Rock County homes actually sold at foreclosure auction totaled 388 in 2007, just more than half the number that ForeclosureAlarm reported as filed records. The rest were canceled, adjourned or postponed.


Still, home foreclosure filings continued to mount throughout Wisconsin last month, increasing 9 percent from February 2008.


There were 2,325 foreclosure actions started in the state in February, compared with 2,133 a year earlier, according to ForeclosureAlarm.


"Just the way the economy is, I think we're going to see continued foreclosure activity, but I'm hopeful that it will start to taper off by the end of the year," said Bob Carmichael, president and CEO of Blackhawk Community Credit Union in Janesville.


President Barack Obama recently unveiled a program to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Neither Carmichael nor another Janesville banker contacted this morning have seen specifics of the program.


Carmichael said local foreclosure filings probably will remain stable for the foreseeable future because unemployment benefits just now are starting to run out for many of the area's workers who were laid off last summer. Depending on the employees' lay-off dates, those benefits will expire by the end of the year.


"The real difficulty we're having is getting people to come in and talk to us," Carmichael said. "There are tons of reasons why they don't want to come in, but once they do they often find that we can help modify their contract."


Philip Crawford, founder of ForeclosureAlarm, said he doesn't foresee big spikes in filings from now on, but they will continue to increase in the weak economy as people lose their jobs and are unable to repay their debts.


Forty percent of all the mortgages in foreclosure now are standard mortgages that were fully underwritten, where the borrowers' income was verified and there was a down payment, said Richard P. Imperiale, president of Forward Uniplan Advisors Inc. in Union Grove.


"What that says is this has gone from a problem on the margin to a problem that's beginning to erode the core homeowner," he said.


Material from Gazette wire services was used in this story

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