Through the roof

The day of reckoning is once again at hand for hundreds of Jackson County property owners.

Federal scrutiny, political pressure and legal proceedings combined to slow foreclosure rates to a relative trickle during the past year.

Now, with agencies and politicians apparently satisfied, moratoriums have ended and many of the same property owners whose foreclosure activity was put on hold, are once again on the docket to see their homes sold on the courthouse steps.

Default lists are growing longer partly because companies such as ReconTrust Co., of Simi Valley, Calif., have begun reinstating proceedings, a spokeswoman for AmeriTitle said.

Many of the 453 notices appearing in April were on previous lists, said Cynthia Simpson, assistant general manager. Before April, this year's monthly average of 209 defaults has been consistent with last year's 212.

"But we're starting to see a higher volume," she said.

For a while, however, the weekly default reports shrank into the dozens, hiding the fact that hundreds of homes were on the brink of being swept into a new foreclosure torrent.

"It had got down to 15, 20 or 30 (per week), about what we would consider normal," said veteran real estate agent Ron Galbreath of Keller Williams Realty in Medford.

The trend reversed in April. In a big way.

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac halted foreclosure activity during the national budget debate," Galbreath said. "The process stalled, creating a backlog."

The latest weekly default list, dated May 11, listed more than 160 addresses, including some unimproved lots.

According to Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac, which monitors warnings sent to homeowners throughout the foreclosure process, national defaults peaked in March 2010 and fell incrementally until this March, when they began to rise again.

In some ways, the past year has been the intermission between the first and second acts.

The unknown element of what's around the bend in coming months is not only unsettling for people in danger of losing their homes, but also for owners whose property values will be reduced by a flood of new foreclosures.

"HUD is telling me that we're are supposed to get another 700 (foreclosed) homes to sell in the state of Oregon (in coming weeks)," said Diana Yates of Action Realty, which handles sales of foreclosures in the area for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "I'm guessing we're going to get 100 of them in Jackson County. We're expecting more and it seems logical that we will."

The single-family residences, townhouses and smaller multiple-family dwellings Yates will market were typically bought for 3.5 percent down. The owners simply over-extended themselves and bought too much house or couldn't handle adjustable-rate mortgage payments.

"They are working-class people who got caught up in a bad market," Yates said. "Some got 100 percent loans they couldn't afford and a lot of them got into a house knowing they couldn't stay in it long term. They have held on as long as they can."

The word filtering down to her through various government agency sources is that the latest cycle of increased foreclosures will be a long one.

"That's what the big boys tell me," she said.

Another batch of homes expected to soon hit the market are Fannie Mae foreclosures, many of which were forestalled in recent months.

Bill Allen, principal owner at Keller Williams Real Estate, who handles property with Fannie Mae loans that soured, said the new supply of troubled homes for sale will have an impact on other home prices across the area.

"Right now, there is a fairly good demand for the lower-end properties," Allen said. "This will relieve some of that, but when you flood a market with inventory you know what happens, no one has to tell you."

In the first three months of this year, it took an average of 400 days for a U.S. home to go from receiving an initial notice of default to being foreclosed on, RealtyTrac said.

The foreclosure process generally takes more than a year from the time default notices are recorded.

"Normally the first step takes 90 days once you miss payments and the notice of default, recorded," Allen said. "It's another 120 days after that to foreclosure if everything is right on schedule. Under the optimum circumstances, the quickest foreclosure would be 210 days, but those circumstances never happen. I'm aware of processes where people have been in their houses three years after the process began."

Jackson County has the fifth-highest foreclosure activity in the state, according Realty Trac, while White City and Prospect are the most troubled areas in the county.

Greg Stiles is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. He can be reached at 541-776-4463 or e-mail

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