Foreclosures dip in Clark County in Nov.

Whether decrease becomes a trend remains to be seen

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 

Clark County homes in foreclosure

2010 monthly totals:

November — 317

October — 527

September — 435

August — 553

July — 500

Source: RealtyTrac, California

The month of November offered a bit of a reprieve to some troubled Clark County homeowners as a number of the nation’s largest lenders temporarily halted foreclosures in all 50 states.

Only 317 Clark County homes were in some stage of foreclosure in November, a 39.8 percent drop from the previous month.

However, local experts say it’s too early to celebrate the recent improvement, in light of the extra precautions some banks are now taking as 50 state attorneys general scrutinize their work with struggling borrowers.

“Even though the large lenders have resumed their foreclosure process, they’re doing so much more cautiously and even going back to make sure they have all the paperwork in order,” said Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research in Pullman, which tracks and analyzes the state’s housing market.

That could explain why last month’s local filings fell and Clark County’s rate of foreclosure dropped from the state’s third-worst to eighth-worst out of Washington’s 39 counties, according to California-based RealtyTrac.

“I think most of it has to do with the media hype over the foreclosure process,” tied to three or four big banks that hold the majority of home loans here, said Dave Dahlstrom, chief credit officer and executive vice president for Riverview Community Bank in Vancouver.

From January through November, foreclosures in Clark County are up 27 percent over the same period in 2009.

“We need to see three or four months of continued flattening,” Dahlstrom said. “Then you could come to a conclusion that you’re reaching the bottom.”

Other counties catching up

Others said RealtyTrac’s rate of foreclosure filings — default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions — likely would continue to fall below the rates in other counties because those areas are just beginning to experience a wave of foreclosures.

“Some communities are now catching up and passing Clark County on the relative frequency of foreclosure,” Crellin said.

In the meantime, foreclosure counseling classes continue to fill to capacity at Vancouver’s Community Housing Resource Center, said Kevin Gillette, the nonprofit’s program manager and counselor.

Since scrutiny of large lenders has increased, Gillette said he has seen a trickle of home-loan modifications come through for his clients. It represents a big change for some banks.

“It’s easier to work with (the banks). They’re calling us and, whether it’s a trend or not, I am seeing some positive signs,” he said.

Snohomish and Pierce counties posted the state’s highest rates of foreclosure, followed by Mason, Cowlitz, Wahkiakum, Thurston and Skagit counties, according to RealtyTrac.

Washington had the 17th highest foreclosure rating in the nation, with one in every 686 homes in foreclosure in November. Oregon ranked No. 15, with one in every 658 households in some stage of foreclosure.