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Area foreclosures falling, still above pre-recession levels

With one month left to record, 2014 appears on track to have the fewest foreclosed Calhoun County homes in five years, but the figures are still above pre-recession levels.

Since the 2007 start of the Great Recession, Calhoun County and much of the U.S. have struggled with high numbers of foreclosures, which depressed home prices. However, a significant drop in foreclosures this year has helped the local housing market improve, industry experts say. Meanwhile, even without December numbers, county home sales this year are higher than in all of 2013 — another indication of the local housing market’s recovery.

The Calhoun County Probate Office has recorded 276 foreclosures as of November this year. If this year’s monthly trends stay true, after December the county will have fewer foreclosures than the 326 recorded last year.

The last time the county had so few foreclosures was 295 in 2009, two years into the recession. This year’s foreclosures are still considerably higher than pre-recession levels, about 200 per year in 2005 and 2006.

Still, the drop in foreclosures this year is progress, said David Dethrage, a broker with Home Realty Company in Oxford, which deals with many foreclosed homes.

“Sure, the foreclosure level is down from the height of the crisis,” Dethrage said. “We are pulling out of that … I think overall, the market is unwinding all of these properties.”

Dethrage said the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program has helped more residents in danger of foreclosure keep their homes now than in previous years. Dethrage said recent changes to the program have allowed more people to use it and refinance their homes.

“Today, there is very little reason to allow a home to go into foreclosure,” Dethrage said.

Shad Williams, president and CEO of Cheaha Bank, said his bank has dealt with far fewer foreclosures this year.

“The wave of foreclosures we had during the recession have already come and gone,” Williams said. “We feel like we’re already back to normal times.”

Everett King of ERA King Real Estate said he thinks this year’s drop in foreclosures is part of a steady trend of decline.

“I think we’ll continue to see foreclosures decline and almost go away until we get into that normal foreclosure rate,” King said.

Inversely, as foreclosures have declined, home sales and prices have improved.

According to the Alabama Center for Real Estate, 1,139 homes were sold in the county as of November this year. That’s already more than the 1,095 homes sold in all of 2013.

Also, the average home price for this year so far is $118,679, higher than the $117,043 average price for all of 2013.

“I think this year, which was a pretty good year, we’ll be up 15 percent in sales by the end of it,” King said.

Williams said he thinks more residents have found meaningful employment since the height of the recession, which has helped more of them obtain loans and buy homes.

According to the Alabama Department of Labor, the county’s unemployment rate in November was 6 percent — lower than the 6.5 percent rate it had in November last year.

Dethrage said the job market is a key factor in the strength of the housing market.

“The best reflection of the real estate market is the job market,” Dethrage said. “If foreclosures are still high, then we’ll have high levels of unemployment.”


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