Thursday, June 29, 2006

Jacksonville 'Drowning In Foreclosures'

A foreclosure report from Jacksonville, Florida. "The housing market may be cooling nationally, but inside the Duval County Courthouse the foreclosure market is booming. The foreclosed property auctions inside the Courthouse attract crowds of buyers. Tuesday’s auction saw eight properties sell in less than an hour."

"The auctions typically move from 10-30 properties a day, according to the Clerk of the Circuit and County Court’s office, which runs the proceedings. Staff at the Clerk’s office said the number of foreclosed properties has been on the rise this year. Several buyers at the auction attributed the increase to the popularity of Adjustable Rate Mortgages."

"As interest rates climb, those mortgages have become unaffordable for many middle- and low-income homeowners, said April Charney, a consumer attorney for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. Charney, who specializes in foreclosure defense, keeps her clients out of the auctions by working ahead of time to settle their debts. But the auctions are becoming a frequent finish for too many Duval County homeowners, she said."

"'Particularly in poor neighborhoods, we’re drowning in foreclosures,' she said."

"The crowds make it harder to walk away with a bargain, said John Kern, an entrepreneur who bid on his first foreclosed property four years ago. 'I used to come out here and there’d be two or three people out here,' said Kern. 'Now you’ve got all these people just bidding up and bidding up.'"

"Many of those people are lured to the auctions by tales of the quick flip and easy money. 'A lot of people think they’re going to make a lot money,' said Mark Kessler, an attorney bidding on properties for his clients. “Some call them speculators, some people have worse names for them.'"

"The properties, even at half the market value, aren’t always sure things. Herb Rinderer, a title examiner who also invests in the properties, said novice bidders sometimes receive an unpleasant surprise with their winning bid. 'If you don’t do title research, you don’t know what you might be getting,' he said. 'You could be buying a second mortgage on that property. I did a search for one client and the property had a $77,000 IRS lien attached.'"

"Charney wishes she could get all that manpower involved before the properties end up on foreclosure rolls. Ironically, she thinks many of the properties could be had early at a discount. The foreclosure price often includes fees from lawyers and lenders."

"Kern, who buys mostly in poor neighborhoods, said he’s often welcomed into the community. 'When I get in there, the grass is usually two feet tall, the house is a mess,' said Kern. 'We put money into those houses and into those neighborhoods. We get the house in shape and move a family in there.'"


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