Sunday, April 02, 2006

From Dream To Nightmare In Pennsylvania

The Lebanon Daily News reports on defaults in Pennsylvania. "In Lebanon County this year, there were 23 properties, mostly in the city, listed as in foreclosure as of yesterday on the RealtyTrac Web site. By contrast, there were between 200 and 500 listings for each of the surrounding counties. Kim Brower, real-estate administrator with the Lebanon County Sheriff’s Office, said she believed RealtyTrac’s figure for the county is low.'

"'I have an average of 40 homes every other month that are on the list for foreclosure, and roughly 20 of them go to sale,' she said."

"Local real-estate agents say Stuart’s situation is typical, and they see the number of foreclosures in the county increasing. 'Sometimes in our office, we get two or three a week,' said Bonnie Koller, an agent in North Cornwall Township. Lenders often list foreclosed homes through local real-estate offices."

"James Stanilla, an agent in Lebanon County, attributes the rising number of foreclosures to lenders. 'Lenders are too lenient with second-loan guidelines,' Stanilla said. Home buyers often can get into a new home with little or no money down, he explained, and within a couple of years they can get a home equity line of credit approved quickly. 'It’s a glorified credit card, and you know what people can do with a credit card,' he said. 'Each year there are more and more foreclosures. And it’s not just homes in the median range.'"

"There are homes in foreclosure, he said, that are in the $300,000-plus range."

"If a home is still occupied, the real-estate agent can offer the occupants money to move out, the cash-for-keys program, he said. If the occupants are not willing to vacate, it then goes through a possession process. In one case, Stanilla said, he had a hard time contacting the owner of a New Street home in Lebanon. The owner agreed to leave after Stanilla offered him $500 through the cash-for-keys program."

"Stanilla, who has sold a number of foreclosed homes, said it’s not easy to evict a family. He has been met at the door by homeowners bearing guns. In those cases, he turns the case over to the sheriff."

"Some people dump trash in all of the rooms or damage the property so repairs must be made before it can be sold, Stanilla said. Others just abandon the home during the night, leaving toys and other signs of a life interrupted. Sometimes, he added, criminals turn a vacant structure into a crack house, he said. 'You never know what you’re walking into,' he said."

"For her part, Stuart advises potential home buyers to consider carefully all of their costs before buying a home. 'There are a lot of lenders out there that want to give you a loan at any cost,' she said. She suggests buyers make sure they are 'really ready to buy a home.'"

"As for Stuart, she now rents a house in Lebanon, works part-time as a real-estate agent and holds down another job. But she hopes to buy another home someday. 'It’s going to take me time to pay off my debt,' she said."


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