Foreclosures in Clark County dip in September

It marked the fourth straight month with a year-over-year-decline

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Clark County home foreclosures in September hit one of the lowest levels of activity this year, another sign that the local economy is improving, a Vancouver housing expert said Wednesday.

It was the fourth month in a row that year-over-year foreclosure figures declined, according to RealtyTrac Inc. The California-based tracking firm tallied 170 foreclosures in Clark County last month, down 12.8 percent from August and down 24.8 percent from September 2012.

The decline in foreclosures quite likely has more than one explanation, including increasing home values that make it easier for troubled homeowners to sell, said Mike Lamb, a Vancouver real estate broker with Windermere Real Estate/Stellar Group. Rising values also are an incentive for some lenders to process foreclosures more slowly, Lamb said. He views the decline in foreclosures as a sign of recovery for the local housing market.

"It could be a number of things coming together," Lamb said, adding that Clark County's 170 foreclosures might also reflect a downward trend that is finally taking hold.

"I think really we've just worked through the bulk of foreclosures," he said.

Of September's 170 homes in some stage of foreclosure, 96 Clark County households received a Notice of Trustee's Sale, according to RealtyTrac. The notices inform the home's mortgage borrowers that their house will be sold at a trustee's auction. The remaining 74 houses were sold as bank-owned real estate.

Foreclosure numbers also fell more than 27 percent across the nation in September, when one in every 998 households across the U.S. was dealing in some way with a foreclosure. The national data show "a housing market that is haltingly returning to health," said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac's vice president, in a written statement issued on Wednesday.

In Clark County, one in every 978 homes was in some stage of foreclosure in September, a bit higher than Washington's average of one in every 926 homes.

In Oregon, one in every 2,483 homes is in some stage of foreclosure. Washington had the 14th-highest foreclosure rate in the nation in September, while Oregon ranked 40th.