Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Hot Markets Need Only Look To Denver

The Rocky Mountain News reports from Colorado. "It's official. A record number of real estate foreclosures have been filed in the Denver area this year. In the first 11 months of 2006, public trustees in the seven-county metro area opened 17,782 foreclosures. That's 3.85 percent higher than the record set in 1988, during the oil industry bust."

"Experts say other parts of the country that recently had hot real estate markets need only look to Denver to see what's in store for them."

"A large percentage of filings are concentrated in the 'foreclosure belts' of Adams and Weld counties, north Aurora, and northeastern Denver neighborhoods such as Montbello and Green Valley Ranch."

"Today's foreclosure crisis is increasingly taking its toll on homeowners, especially with scams and fraud on the rise. 'It's like the wild, wild West out there,' said Zach Urban, a housing counseling manager for (a) nonprofit."

"Mark A. Murphy is trying to sell his house in Aurora before the lender takes it back. He has fallen four months behind on his mortgage after losing his job. 'After being out of work for a few months, it came down to paying my bills or paying my mortgage,' Murphy said."

"When he bought his home two years ago, other comparable homes in his neighborhood were selling for $235,000, he said, about $50,000 more than he paid. The four-bedroom, three-bath home, with 1,944 square feet of finished space, is on the market for $205,000."

"Ironically, Murphy bought his home out of foreclosure. 'I believe this property has been in foreclosure four times,' Murphy said."

"Urban said he is seeing an increasing number of mortgage-fraud schemes. In some cases, people are offered more than the house is worth in exchange for a 'gift' donation. The phony buyer collects the gift and never makes a mortgage payment."

"In other cases, homeowners who think they are refinancing their mortgage really are signing quitclaim deeds, so the person becomes a renter in their own home."

"The biggest culprits in the rising mortgage tide are a flat housing market and overbuilding in certain areas, such as north Interstate 25, said Boulder lender Lou Barnes. 'Our housing market went flat in early 2001, and since then, foreclosures have been rising in the foreclosure belts about 50 percent a year,' Barnes said."

"Despite what some think, foreclosures aren't being driven 100 percent by financing, he said. He noted that the Veterans Administration has been providing zero-down loans for decades, and Federal Housing Administration-insured loans only require a 3 percent down payment."

"But it's never been easier to qualify for a loan, so many people who would have been unable to buy a home previously can now buy one, he said. Despite rising foreclosures, Barnes said there has been no move to tighten borrowing requirements because the federal government wants to encourage homeownership."

"Previously hot markets such as the West Coast, Phoenix and Las Vegas now are softening. Said Barnes: 'If the national lag in these 'bubble zones' is anything like the lag we saw after the technology crash,' he predicts other cities will see an increase in the foreclosure rate similar to Denver's."

"'I think (the metro area's record foreclosures) are very significant for the rest of the country,' he said."


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