North Carolina Foreclosures Near Record, but Tide May Be Turning

Foreclosures in North Carolina are on pace to set a new record of 70,000-plus filings in 2010, eclipsing last year's record of 63,289. By the end of July there were already more than 40,000 filings, according to data analyzed by the North Carolina Justice Center.

Foreclosure activity slowed a tad in 2009, after lenders suspended some foreclosure efforts and as new state laws took effect -- including one that allows county courts to extend foreclosure sale dates to give homeowners more time to work with their lenders.

One out-of-work couple, Loraine and Kerry Slope, tried working out a loan modification with their lender to save their Charlotte home, reports the Charlotte Observer, but the growing interest rate, late fees and penalties on their $197,000 mortgage swelled the amount owed to $219,000, and they lost the home to foreclosure in May.

Although the Slopes' dreams didn't pan out, there could be hope for struggling North Carolina homeowners who are on the verge of losing their properties.
"There is now legislation that mandates that all possible foreclosures be reviewed by the North Carolina commissioner of banks," Carlene McNulty, staff attorney for the N.C. Justice Center, told HousingWatch. "And we hope that will cause servicers and borrowers to work together to save homes."

As of July, Mecklenburg County (which includes Charlotte) had the greatest number of foreclosures, with 6,726. It is followed by Wake (3,246) and Guilford (2,542) counties.

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John Wood, an agent with RE/MAX in Cary, N.C., said that because the three counties lead the state in population, the foreclosure numbers don't tell the whole story. "We have 900,000 people who live here in the Triangle area," Wood said. "From a percentage standpoint, we are not nearly as affected by the foreclosures as some of the smaller rural areas in the state." In fact, Wood said, "the Triangle area's total closings are up 9 percent year-to-date from the end of July."

North Carolina was number 33 as of July on the national foreclosure rankings, said Daren Blomquist, marketing and communications director at RealtyTrac, which tracks foreclosure data. "We are continuing to see the foreclosure numbers [nationally] stay at a very high level," he told HousingWatch. "July was the 17th straight month we've seen more than 300,000 filings. We are in a holding pattern of foreclosure activity, and we don't expect that to make a dramatic shift until sometime in 2011."

RealtyTrac is already starting to see a downward shift in some states, however. "In some of the ones that were hardest hit, like Nevada and California, we are seeing about six months of decreasing foreclosure activity on a year-over-year basis," says Blomquist. "If the government programs to help shadow inventory not go into foreclosure don't work effectively, then we could see a spike in foreclosure activity."

The high foreclosure rate is only a problem if you're the seller, however. "Interest rates dropped again yesterday, and it is still a buyer's market," said Debbie Cobb, a broker with RE/MAX United in Raleigh, N.C. "One person's loss is another person's gain. Take advantage of the opportunity."

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