The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Reality Check

June 25, 2008

Foreclosed!

County’s low-end housing suffers in subprime mess

Paul Bryant is fascinated by statistics, especially those dealing with the housing market in Ashtabula, Lake, Geauga and Cuyahoga counties.

Bryant is a Realtor and past president of both the Lake County Association of Realtors and Ashtabula County Board of Realtors. Semiretired, he previously managed the Realty One office in Ashtabula Township.

In the fall of 2007, Bryant pored over the listings in the Multiple Listing Service for Ashtabula, zeroing in on properties with a listing price of $80,000 or less. What Bryant discovered surprised this industry veteran.

“Almost 39 percent were bank foreclosures,” says Bryant. “It was a huge percentage. ... (A) majority of the sales where of bank-owned properties.”

When it comes to home foreclosures, Ashtabula County once again has the misfortune of being in Ohio. During the summer and fall of 2007, one in nine Ohio homeowners with a mortgage was at least 30 days behind on payments. The state had 3.7 percent of all home loans in foreclosure during the third quarter, according to a report released Dec. 6, 2007, by the Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington.

During 2006, there were 718 foreclosure filings in Ashtabula County. In 2007, that number crept up to 740. That is one foreclosure for every 140 residents, or 16 foreclosures for every 1,000 housing units. Those are figures that put the county in the league of Louisiana, Michigan and Nevada, the nation’s top foreclosure states.

It’s not getting better, either. In January, 70 foreclosure actions were filed. Sixty-two were filled last month.

While much of the foreclosure issue is being blamed on the subprime-lending debacle, in Ohio there’s also the sour-economy factor at work. The January 2008 unemployment rate was 8 percent.

Bryant says buyers, even investors, have been running scared.

“The uncertainty of employment is the biggest problem,” Bryant says. “People just don’t know what’s going to happen to them in the next couple of years.”

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