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Rock County foreclosure filings fall to lowest point in years




— Rock County is following a national trend that those in the real estate industry say has been a long time in the making.

Foreclosure filings are falling, and they’re doing so in a big way.

The Rock County Clerk of Courts office received 168 foreclosure filings in the first three months of this year. That’s a 62 percent decrease from the number of foreclosure notices filed in the first quarter of last year.

For a better perspective, consider that 189 notices were filed in March 2012 alone. Nearly that many were filed the previous month.

It was the fewest first-quarter foreclosure filings since the first three months of 2005, when the clerk’s office received 153 foreclosure filings.

“I think we’re finally starting to see the end of it,� said Colleen Nelson, president of the Rock-Green Realtors Association and a real estate agent at FirstWeber Realtors in Janesville.

Nelson, of course, was referring to an economic crisis that forced a massive run-up in the number of distressed properties in Rock County.

The vast majority sold for pennies on the dollar, which had a negative effect on the prices paid for non-distressed homes.

Sellers were hesitant to list their houses, instead waiting for a more stable, competitive market.

Daren Blomquist is a vice president at RealtyTrac, a leading online marketplace for foreclosure properties and real estate data.

He said that what’s happening in Rock County is happening throughout Wisconsin and, for the most part, across the United States.

“There are exceptions around the country, but in general we are no longer seeing increasing trends in national foreclosures,� Blomquist said. “It’s certainly on the downswing in Wisconsin, and these distressed properties are being cleared out of the system.�

RealtyTrac recently issued a report that shows that March foreclosure filings—default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions—were down 1 percent from February and down 23 percent from March 2012.

The decrease helped drop first-quarter foreclosure numbers to the lowest level since the second quarter of 2007, he said.

“Although the overall national foreclosure trend continues to head lower, late-blooming foreclosures are bolting higher in some local markets where aggressive foreclosure prevention efforts in previous years are wearing off,� Blomquist said, noting that Rockford, Ill., is still in the top 10 for national foreclosure rates.

Nelson said she and other local Realtors hope the trend continues. Foreclosure, she said, is often a process that takes time to work itself through the local market.

In the meantime, she said, local real estate agents continue to suffer from too few non-distressed homes being put up for sale.

In Rock County, first-quarter listings were at their lowest level in 11 years, according to the South Central Wisconsin Multiple Listing Service. In fact, they’re 40 percent below the high-water mark established in the first quarter of 2007.

“Sales are starting to improve, but listings are still low, real low,� Nelson said. “We’re trying to get more listings because the good ones are selling just as fast as they come onto the market.�

Nelson has spoken with several potential home sellers who stayed out of the market for the last few years because of distressed prices.

“Now they are a little more aggressive in putting their house on the market and then either downsizing or upgrading,� she said, noting that spring is typically the busiest time of the year for listing homes.

According to the listing service, 325 homes were sold in Rock County in the first three months of the year. That’s 8 percent fewer than the first quarter of 2012.

In what is perhaps a reflection of fewer distressed properties on the market, the average price for the quarter was $106,408, an 8 percent increase over the average price paid in the first three months of 2012.

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