September saw 162 foreclosures advertised in Cherokee Tribune, the county’s legal organ, which is down from 345 in September 2012. September’s number is also up from August, when 143 properties were set to be foreclosed, but local financial leaders say the 53 percent decrease from last September is more significant.
Steve Holcomb, president of United Community Bank in Canton, said Friday the decrease from 2012 is the result of several factors, which have amounted to a “visible improvement” in the economy in general.
“Homeowners and consumers are feeling like they can breathe again,” Holcomb said. “People are more positive. Consumer confidence is the highest it’s been in some time.”
Among the reasons for September’s low foreclosure numbers, Holcomb said, are increased purchasing activity in the real estate market and the uptick in the number of homeowners who have avoided foreclosure through finding compromises with their lenders.
Unemployment rates are also a factor, Holcomb said.
“The overall trend has been more people are working,” he said. “With more people working, they’re able to work with lenders to pay their bills.”
As for the increase in foreclosures from August, Holcomb said it isn’t significant.
“There’s always going to be some arbitrary adjustment in the way different banks are processing their problem assets, their problem loans,” he said. “There will be a bottle neck and (foreclosures will) flood through.”
Wanda Roach, a Realtor with ERA Sunrise Realty, also said Friday that the 53 percent increase from September 2012 is encouraging.
“That just goes to show how the economy is picking up again,” Roach said. “I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Roach said the key drivers for the decrease are likely the improved employment landscape and increased market value in real estate, which helps some avoid foreclosure by selling their homes.
Home values are up in part, Roach said because the inventory of available homes on the market in Cherokee County is “way down.”
“We don’t have nearly the amount of houses to show as we did last year,” she said. “I’ve got buyers I’m working with, and we just haven’t been able to find any (homes).”
Fewer and fewer of the homes for sale are ones that have been foreclosed on, she said.
Holcomb said another reason for the lack of foreclosures hitting the courthouse steps to be sold off could be a number of pending lawsuits against some of the nation’s leading mortgage lenders in 2012. When those cases were complete, the homes were foreclosed on and caused a spike in the numbers, but Holcomb said if those lawsuits play a part in the decreased numbers for September, it is only one of the many factors.
“There’s no one single answer,” he said.
Holcomb said no matter how many factors are at play, the economy is getting better in general, though there is still a “long road” ahead.
“Are we near back to where it was? I don’t think so at all,” he said. “We’ve got a ways to go, but it is improving and that’s good for everybody.”